Does Spirituality Reduce Anxiety in the Elderly?

Anxiety affects approximately 40 million adults in the United States each year, and while much research has focused on children and young adults, the elderly population is often overlooked. According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation (GMHF), as many as 10-20% of the older population experiences anxiety, whether it be in the form of a social phobia or other phobia, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or other condition. It’s important for those in the older population to take diligent care of their mental health, because it can have a significant impact on their overall quality of life. There are many factors that can help reduce anxiety, but one of recent exploration has been spirituality.

Spirituality is a broad concept with many perspectives, but it does provide individuals with a sense of purpose and meaning in life. A 2015 study published in the journal Holistic Nursing Practice sought to explore whether or not spirituality could help ease anxiety amongst 66 elderly patients who had anxiety. An intervention was conducted, and participants went through 60-90-minute sessions of spiritual and religious-based interventions for 3 consecutive days. Researchers assessed their anxiety levels both before and after the interventions, and found that these spirituality interventions greatly reduced anxiety for many of the patients. How can this happen?

With many people in older population, health issues such as memory loss and other changes can be just as devastating as they are riddled with anxiety. Spiritual leader Deepak Chopra states that with anxiety, fear truly rules the mind, and we give it control. When spirituality comes into play, we are able to let go of that fear in a physical sense, through practices such as meditation, praying, yoga, acupuncture, and more. For many in the elderly community, this can drastically increase their quality of life as they are better able to cope with the challenges, thoughts, and worries that come and go.

If you struggle with anxiety and are part of the older population, seeking out spiritual activities could be an excellent way to ease out of anxiety and enter into more calmness, control, and peace.

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