Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Operational definitions in research on religion and health

This article summarizes the historical development of operational definitions and discusses their application to research on religion and health, and their importance for research, in general. The diversity of religious concepts that have been operationalized is described, as well as the development of multi-dimensional self-report measures of religion specifically designed for use in health research. The operational definitions of a variety of health concepts are also described, including the development of multi-dimensional self-report measures of health. Some of the most consistently observed salutary relationships between religion and health are mentioned. The rising interest in spirituality in health research is discussed, along with problems with the current operational definitions of spirituality in healthcare research. The levels of measurement used in various, operationally defined religious and healthcare concepts are highlighted.