Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Alyssa Cheadle, Psychology; Dr. Jared Ortiz, Religion

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Poliovirus, which is transmitted by a fecal oral route, caused worldwide epidemics in the 20th century, which peaked in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, post-polio syndrome (PPS) is affecting polio survivors and is considered a secondary disability. Individuals who are affected by PPS experience new symptoms similar to those of polio that include weakness in muscles, fatigue, and pain from joint degeneration. Besides these physical symptoms, previous research indicates that polio survivors and PPS affected individuals experience multiple psychological detriments such as anxiety, fear, and depression which could be related to experiencing this secondary disability after recovering from polio. Previous research also indicates that being more religious and/or spiritual can relate to having better health outcomes. Given this research, we examined whether polio survivors or PPS affected individuals who are more religious/spiritual would have better health outcomes than non or less religious/spiritual people. Within our research, we considered multiple relationships involving disability and polio/PPS, religiousness/spirituality and disability, and religiousness/spirituality and polio/PPS. Our research proceeded in two stages: first, literature searches, and second, data analysis. We have completed a literature search of empirical medical and psychological literature as well as theoretical theological literature related to this question. The secondary analysis of data collected via interview and questionnaire in a sample of 189 post-polio patients produced initial results that indicated religiousness and spirituality were correlated positively with mental health and negatively with physical health. The relationship between mental health and religiousness/spirituality supported previous research. However, the relationship between physical health and religiousness/spirituality was unexpected and raises important questions about religiousness, spirituality and health in disabled and chronically ill people.


This research was supported by the Hope College Grand Challenges Initiative.

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