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Büssing, Arndt; Wirth, Anne Gritli; Reiser, Franz; Zahn, Anne; Humbroich, Knut; Gerbershagen, Kathrin; Schimrigk, Sebastian; Haupts, Michael; Hvidt, Niels Christian; Baumann, Klaus: Experience of gratitude, awe and beauty in life among patients with multiple sclerosis and psychiatric disorders. In: Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 2014, 12:63




Background: Feelings of gratitude and awe facilitate perceptions and cognitions that go beyond the focus of illness and include positive aspects of one's personal and interpersonal reality, even in the face of disease. We intended to measure feelings of gratitude, awe, and experiences of beauty in life among patients with multiple sclerosis and psychiatric disorders, particularly with respect to their engagement in specific spiritual/religious practices and their life satisfaction. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey with standardized questionnaires to measure engagement in various spiritual practices (SpREUK-P) and their relation to experiences of Gratitude, Awe and Beauty in Life and life satisfaction (BMLSS-10). In total, 461 individuals (41 +/- 13 years; 68% women) with multiple sclerosis (46%) and depressive (22%) or other psychiatric disorders (32%) participated. Results: Among participants, 23% never, 43% rarely, 24% often, and 10% frequently experienced Gratitude. In contrast, 41% never, 37% rarely, 17% often, and 6% frequently experienced Awe. Beauty in Life was never experienced by 8% of the sample, and 28% rarely, 46% often, and 18% frequently experienced it. Gratitude (F=9.2; p=.003) and Beauty in Life (F=6.0; p=.015) were experienced significantly more often by women than men. However, the experience of Awe did not differ between women and men (F=2.2; n.s.). In contrast to our hypothesis, Gratitude/Awe cannot explain any relevant variance in patients' life satisfaction (R-2=.04). Regression analyses (R-2=.42) revealed that Gratitude/Awe can be predicted best by a person's engagement in religious practices, followed by other forms of spiritual practices and life satisfaction. Female gender was a weak predictor and underlying disease showed no effect. Conclusions: Gratitude/Awe could be regarded as a life orientation towards noticing and appreciating the positive in life - despite the symptoms of disease. Positive spirituality/religiosity seems to be a source of gratitude and appreciation in life, whereas patients with neither spiritual nor religious sentiments (R-S-) seem to have a lower awareness for these feelings.