Spiritual needs in Denmark: a population-based cross-sectional survey linked to Danish national registers

Elsevier, The Lancet Regional Health - Europe, Volume 28, May 2023
Stripp T.A., Wehberg S., Bussing A., Koenig H.G., Balboni T.A., VanderWeele T.J. et al.

Background: Spiritual aspects of the human condition may give rise to spiritual pain and suffering, especially in the face of illness or difficult life situations. A growing volume of research documents the effects of religiosity, spirituality, meaning, and purpose on health. In supposedly secular societies, however, spiritual matters are rarely addressed in healthcare. This is the first large scale study to examine spiritual needs in Danish culture, and the largest study on spiritual needs to date. Methods: A population-based sample of 104,137 adult (≥18 yrs) Danes were surveyed cross-sectionally (the EXICODE study) and responses were linked to data from Danish national registers. The primary outcome was spiritual needs in four dimensions: religious, existential, generativity, and inner peace. Logistic regression models were fitted to examine the relationship between participant characteristics and spiritual needs. Findings: A total of 26,678 participants responded to the survey (25.6%). Of included participants 19,507 (81.9%) reported at least one strong or very strong spiritual need in the past month. The Danes scored highest on inner peace needs, followed by generativity, then existential, and lastly, religious needs. Affiliating as religious or spiritual, regularly meditating or praying, or reporting low health, low life satisfaction, or low well-being increased the odds of having spiritual needs. Interpretation: This study demonstrated that spiritual needs are common among Danes. These findings have important implications for public health policies and clinical care. Care for the spiritual dimension of health is warranted as part of holistic, person-centered care in what we term ‘post-secular’ societies. Future research should inform how spiritual needs might be addressed in healthy and diseased populations in Denmark and other European countries and the clinical effectiveness of such interventions. Funding: The paper was supported by the Danish Cancer Society (R247-A14755), The Jascha Foundation (ID 3610), The Danish Lung Foundation, AgeCare, and the University of Southern Denmark.