A new study from the University of California – San Diego claims that spirituality — but not necessarily religiosity — is one of several signs of wisdom, though it’s not the primary one. The findings, which were published this week in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, reveal that spirituality is ‘significantly associated’ with factors that may increase one’s overall wisdom. In addition, the study found that older people, particularly women, were more likely to be spiritual.
Wisdom refers to one’s ability to act and think based on a variety of insight, personal experience, understanding, knowledge, and good ole common sense. A number of personality traits have been heavily correlated with wisdom, the six established ones being:
– Emotional regulation
– Empathy and other pro-social behaviors
– Ability to accept other perspectives
– Social decision-making
In the study published today, UC San Diego scientists report that spirituality may be a seventh personality trait that indicates wisdom, though it falls lower on the scale of how critical a trait is in making this determination. This isn’t the first time spirituality has been explored as a potential sign of wisdom, something that has proven controversial.
The latest study involved data on more than 1,700 people ages 20 to 82 who live in the US and who completed the original San Diego Wellness Scale. Likewise, the participants were evaluated in other ways for everything from experiences of loneliness and happiness to how strong their social network was and their state of religiosity or spirituality.
When it came to a participant’s overall wisdom score, the researchers note that pro-social behaviors were more strongly associated than spirituality…but that spirituality was still a ‘significant indicator’ of how high one would rank in terms of wisdom. Women were found to score more highly in the area of spirituality than men and participants were found to be more spiritual as they aged.
Study co-first author Dilip V. Jeste, MD, explained:
Spirituality does not require religious faith but is characterized by humility and ever-present connectedness to oneself or to others or to an entity that is transcendent, such as Mother Nature or God or the soul. It helps reduce stress in many people and allows them to be more at peace, happier and healthier. Feeling connected to something makes you feel less lonely. Loneliness and wisdom also have a strong connection in the opposite direction — that is, more wisdom would connote less loneliness.