Methods: To conduct this cross-sectional, nationally representative study, data were obtained from the General Social Surveys (GSS). The GSS is primarily administered through face-to-face interviews, conducted in either English or Spanish, with a response rate exceeds 70%. The GSS is designed to be nationally representative of non-institutionalized adults, thus institutionalized adults fall outside of the scope of the GSS. In addition to control variables, the study included measures to assess four types of disability and eight measures of spirituality (e.g., frequency of prayer, experienced a point in your life when you turned away from your spiritual tradition). Logistic regression was used to identify unique spirituality profiles among each disability type, relative to members of the general public.
Results: Four models were constructed to examine the association between spirituality and disability status, after taking into account the effects of potential confounders. The final models were significant for hearing (c2(6)=71.70, p<0.001), vision (c2(6)=53.47, p<0.001), physical mobility (c2(7)=137.89, p<0.001), and emotional disability (c2(7)=60.91, p<0.001).
The results indicated the presence of distinct spiritual profiles. For instance, daily prayer was related to disability type in three of the four models. Compared to their counterparts in the general population, people with hearing, physical, and emotional disabilities were more likely to report praying several times a day. People with all four types of disability were more likely to report having a turning point when they became less committed to their spiritual tradition. Of particular note, were the odds ratios for people with emotional disabilities. Compared to their counterparts, individuals with an emotional disability were 5.47 times more likely to report a point in time when they turned away from their tradition, a medium to large effect size.
Conclusions and Implications: As the perhaps first nationally representative study to examine the relationship between spirituality and disability type, the results have important implications for those who work with people with disabilities. Understanding which dimensions of spirituality are disproportionately likely to exist among a given population helps practitioners provide more effective services to group members by highlighting key areas for exploration. For example, people with emotional disabilities may have had negative experiences that resulted in a rejection of their spiritual tradition, cutting them off from potential sources of support (Starnino, 2012).