Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2023 Volume 19 :: Article 3
2023 Volume 19, Article 3
Religious, Spiritual, and Secular Identity and Group Participation in U.S. College Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Differences in Quality of Life and Psychological Distress

Author: Christopher R. Dabbs, Ph.D. (Knox College) and Carrie L. Winterowd, Ph.D. (Oklahoma State University)

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This study explored inter-and-intragroup differences in college student psychological distress and quality of life through centering religious, spiritual, and secular identity and participation in meaning-making groups. A total of 607 college students participated in an online survey which included measures of depression, anxiety, stress, and quality of life. Results showed that participants who identified as ‘spiritual and religious’ reported higher quality of life scores and lower anxiety scores than those who identified as secular or ‘spiritual or religious.’ Participants who attended religious and/or spiritual meaning-making groups reported less anxiety and enhanced aspects of psychological and environmental quality of life compared to those who attended secular meaning-making groups, although differences were not large. These findings bring nuance to the conversation regarding religious, spiritual, and secular group identity and participation, including the potential benefits of both spiritual/religious and secular meaning-making group participation in college students. Implications for college and university personnel and recommendations for future areas of research are explored.

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