Spiritual Fitness for Military Veterans: A Curriculum Review and Impact Evaluation Using the Duke Religion Index (DUREL)


Social Work

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Suicide rates among military veterans exceed those found in the general population. While the exact reasons for these high rates are unknown, contributing factors may include the military’s perceived rejection of patient identities, creating barriers to mental health care within the clinical sector and a mandate for prevention programs. Spiritual fitness has emerged over the last decade as an important concept in human performance optimization and is included among holistic approaches to developing and maintaining mentally fit fighting forces. In attempts to better understand the role that spiritual fitness and religion play in mitigating and/or reducing suicide risk among veterans, the aims of this study were twofold (1) to assess the utility of the Duke Religion Index as a psychometric instrument for use with veterans completing spiritual fitness training and (2) to offer a post-intervention process evaluation of the spiritual fitness module from one resilience program offered to military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2016. Twenty-eight attendees at the JRWI Wellness Resilient Leadership Retreat completed post-retreat surveys to assess their satisfaction with the coursework and specifically, to assess the spiritual fitness module of the resiliency retreat’s curriculum. In total, the research team reviewed 25 completed post-intervention survey responses (89.3% response rate). Descriptive statistics indicated that respondents (n = 25) were subjectively religious, defined as belief in a higher power practiced in ritualized ways. Over half of program participants indicated they (a) attended religious meetings at least once a week and (b) engaged in private religious activity—such as meditation—at least once a day. Results showed that most program participants reported that the spiritual fitness skills learned during the resilient leadership program were useful (88%) (Z = 3.000, p < 0.001). Additionally, most program participants reported their interest in spiritual exploration was affirmed, renewed, or raised as a result of attending the peer-led resilient leadership program (76%) (Z = 6.000, p = 0.015). Culturally informed prevention programs that emphasize spiritual fitness are indicated for use in veteran outreach and well-being programs. More detailed research is needed to assess curriculum specifics.



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Journal of Religion and Health

Citation/Other Information

Thomas, K. H., McDaniel, J. T., Albright, D. L., Fletcher, K. L., & Koenig, H. G. (2018). Spiritual fitness for military veterans: A curriculum review and impact evaluation using the Duke Religion Index (DUREL). Journal of Religion and Health, 57, 1168-1178. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-018-0597-z