Spirituality and Mental Health Among Sexual Minority Women
Methods: The study employed a mixed sampling approach including targeted and respondent sampling methodology. Recruitment was also opened to volunteer participants. All participants completed a web-based survey and were compensated $50. The 270 study respondents were SMW between 18 and 84 years old (M=40.6) living in Washington State. In this sample, 38% were racial or ethnic minorities. Among these SMW, 61% identified as lesbian, 4% as gay, 16% as bisexual, 17% as queer, and 2% as two-spirit. This sample is highly educated with 65% having at least a college degree and 31% having a graduate or professional degree. The average individual income was between $30,000 and $40,000. The short version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale was used to assess the presence of depressive symptoms (α = .86). The State Trait Anxiety Inventory was used to measure anxiety (α = .91). Spirituality measures included the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS) and the 6-item version of the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES). The SCS (α = .85) is a 6-item measure scored on a four-point Likert-type scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). The DSES (α = .92) has been utilized in the Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religion and Spirituality and is intended to complement other spiritual domains in a multidimensional instrument; it is scored on a six-point Likert-type scale from 0 (never or almost never) to 5 (many times a day). In the first hierarchical regression model, depressive symptomatology was regressed on demographics (age, individual income, education level), the SCS, and the DSES. In the second model, anxiety was regressed on demographics, the SCS, and the DSES.
Results: A minority of participants considered themselves to be moderately or very religious (13%) and a majority of participants considered themselves to be moderately or very spiritual (63%). As hypothesized, hierarchical regression analyses controlling for income, education, and age showed that both spirituality factors—self-compassion and daily spiritual experiences—significantly predicted anxiety (Adjusted R Square = .370, p < .001) and depression (Adjusted R Square = .214, p < .001); those with greater self-compassion and daily spiritual experiences reported less depression and less anxiety.
Implications: These findings are promising in two areas. First, this study furthered research investigating the different facets of spirituality associated with mental health. Second, spirituality is an important factor in the mental health of SMW. Authors discuss the implications for social work interventions.