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The existence of this handbook documents the recent increase in research on and practical attention to the role of spirituality in healthcare. One essential companion to the concept of spirituality is spiritual well-being (SWB).[1] That is, although the degree and type of spirituality per se can no doubt play an important role in how well a person faces the dilemmas related to health issues,[2,3] the degree to which a person perceives or derives a sense of wellbeing from that spirituality may be equally or more important. In this connection, SWB is an outcome indicator, or barometer, of how well a person is doing in the face of whatever the person is confronting.[4] Therefore, although SWB is not synonymous with spirituality, it is closely related to it. Similarly, SWB is not synonymous with mental health or physical health, but is likely to be related to both of them. SWB connotes one's subjective perception of well-being in both the religious and/or existential dimensions in accord with whatever is implicitly or explicitly conceived of as a spiritual umbrella for the individual. The Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS)* was developed in order to be a tool for self-assessment of these aspects of general perceived well-being. [ 4,5]

Since its first publication in 1982, a large body of research has been done with the SWBS. In preparation for writing this chapter, a literature search documented the scale's use in over 300 published articles and chapters, 190 doctoral dissertations and Masters theses, 35 posters and presentations, and 50 unpublished papers. It has also been reprinted in no less than 4 books on palliative care and counseling. [ 6-9] An exhaustive review of all of this research is beyond the scope of this chapter; the interested reader is referred to a companion review article. [ 10] Here, we focus specifically and selectively on research related to healthcare. We highlight those studies using the SWBS that are related to mental health variables or to the mental and well-being issues that are consequences or correlates of physical health conditions.

In order to maximize the usefulness of this chapter, it is necessary to ( 1) summarize the intellectual roots of the concept of SWB and what the SWBS does and does not measure, (2) explain the meaning and utility of its religious well-being (RWB) and existential well-being (EWB) subscales, (3) summarize the literature with the SWBS as related to mental and physical health variables, ( 4) note any strengths and weaknesses, research directions, and applications of the SWBS, and (5) summarize implications of SWB research for healthy health care practice.


Originally published as chapter 48 of Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare, edited by M. Cobb, C. Puchalski, & B. Rumbold (Eds.). New York: Oxford University Press.