Women, spirituality, and chronic illness

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Nursing


People with chronic health conditions can experience life changing limitations which often require the help of family or other outside resources to manage the condition. Rural dwellers are at increased risk for chronic health conditions. Social support and spirituality have both been shown to be important contributors to adjustment, health, management, and, nursing care of chronically ill people. The purpose of this study was to explore expressions of spirituality in rural women with chronic illness, and investigate the relationship between spirituality and social support. This study was a secondary data analysis, in which data already collected through a larger research project were examined using qualitative and quantitative techniques. The secondary analysis was conducted with data collected from the Women to Women study at Montana State University-Bozeman, a study which provided computer-based support to women with chronic illness who lived in rural Montana. Asynchronous, computer-based communications of thirteen women were examined. A content analysis of data previously identified as having spiritual content by the research team was undertaken. Analysis of Personal Resource Questionnaire (PRQ) scores, was also performed. Six categories emerged from the content analysis, which were prayer, faith, verse, finding meaning, transcendence, and family. The women used spirituality to support each other and they shared and relied on their faith to deal with trying times. They prayed for each other, shared bible verses, hymns, and poems all in an effort to deal with illness and daily life. The degree of social support was examined and there was no statistical difference in PRQ scores from the beginning to the end of the computer intervention phase. The communications of the women who had particularly high or low scores were further explored relative to their group interactions. Results of this study were consistent with findings in previous literature that identified a link between spirituality and social support, yet the relationship between the two remains unclear. Nursing implications include clarifying the role of spirituality in chronic illness and the continued research into the relationship between spirituality and social support.




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