Stephen Adams, The Telegraph: People who said said they had spiritual beliefs but did not adhere to a particular religion were 77 per cent more likely than the others to be dependent on drugs, 72 per cent more likely to suffer from a phobia, and 50 per cent more likely to have a generalised anxiety disorder.
They are more likely to suffer from a range of mental health problems than either the conventionally religious or those who are agnostic or atheists, found researchers at University College London.
They are more disposed towards anxiety disorders, phobias and neuroses, have eating disorders and drug problems.
In addition, they …
Well, that’s a crock – I notice it didn’t occur to them to conclude that, contrariwise, perhaps it’s that people experiencing emotional or mental suffering are more likely to feel the need for the spiritual, and less likely (on evidence) to bother looking for help from a deity.
There’s a good piece on the NHS website discussing the limitations of this kind of study, which doesn’t attempt to establish cause and effect: https://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/01January/Pages/Spirituality-link-to-mental-illness.aspx
As others have pointed out, it’s easy to arrive at misleading conclusions with this type of study. There’s one other factor that bears mentioning: most people who claim to be “spiritual” have no real spiritual PRACTICE. It’s a catch-all term that runs the gamut from Mayan doomsday believers to readers of the astrology column to people who visit storefront gypsies. If the researchers made the distinction between “spiritual” people of this type and regular meditators with no religious affiliation, for example, there’s no doubt that they would come up with far more meaningful and interesting results.
I agree with Padmavyha. No causality is remotely established, it’s entirely based on self-reporting. Maybe religious people are less likely to report drug/alcohol problems, who knows? Maybe atheists are less likely to seek help from mental healthcare providers? Or just maybe people suffering from mental health problems are more likely to both self medicate and look for relief from non-religious spirituality. I think my BPD and spirituality are linked but not in the way that article suggests.
As far as I’m aware the study didn’t aim to establish causality, only to reveal patterns.