Spirituality, religion and health beliefs

Key messages for primary care practitioners

  • Spirituality means different things to different people and is expressed in varied ways. Migrants to the UK have a diverse range of beliefs and health providers should be aware of the role and impact of spiritual and religious beliefs in the person's life and on their health.
  • Be aware that religious belief may affect the acceptability of aspects of medical care (e.g. diagnostic procedures, certain types of treatment) and also of the potential impact of religious observances on health and/or treatment plans e.g. during periods of fasting.
  • It is good practice to explore with all patients for whom you are prescribing medication whether anything (religious requirements or indeed any other factor) might interfere with their ability to comply with your recommendation.
  • Beliefs, rites and rituals around pregnancy and birth, 'coming of age', menstruation, marriage, and death are highly variable between religions and cultures, and may all impact on health/health seeking behaviour. Explore your patient's beliefs and understanding of these issues where appropriate to the context of the consultation.

Useful general resources

A-Z of religions from the BBC [external link] including information on rites and rituals   

Interfaith calendar from the BBC [external link] 

Mental Health Foundation guidance on spirituality and mental health [external link]

The Royal College of Psychiatrists guidance on spirituality and mental health [external link] 

Facing bereavement website [external link] (see 'types of funeral' for information on different faiths) 

NHS choices: circumcision [external link]  

BBC health: circumcision [external link] 

BBC ethics guide: male circumcision [external link]

BBC ethics guide: female circumcision/genital cutting [external link]

BBC ethics guide: contraception [external link] (including religious views)  

BBC ethics guide: religion and abortion [external link] 

Religion specific health resources

Muslim health network [external link]

Healthy Ramadan from NHS Choices [external link]

Ramadan health guide: a guide to healthy fasting [external link] (Department of Health information leaflet)

In this video for muslims and healthcare experts [external link] an expert panel discuss key issues and solutions surrounding diabetes patients and their duty to fast during the month of Ramadan.

Fasting and asthma information from Asthma UK [external link]

Heat health advice during Ramadan can be found on page 28 of the Heatwave Plan for England 2012 [external link]

NaTHNaC advice to pilgrims going to Hajj and Umrah [external link]

Healthy Christmas from NHS Choices [external link]

Caring for the Hindu patient [external link] (Pulse article)

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