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Is spirituality a component of wisdom? Study of 1,786 adults using expanded San Diego Wisdom Scale (Jeste-Thomas Wisdom Index).



Wisdom has gained increasing interest among researchers as a personality trait relevant to well-being and mental health. We previously reported development of a new 24-item San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE), with good to excellent psychometric properties, comprised of six subscales: pro-social behaviors, emotional regulation, self-reflection (insight), tolerance for divergent values (acceptance of uncertainty), decisiveness, and social advising. There is controversy about whether spirituality is a marker of wisdom. The present cross-sectional study sought to address that question by developing a new SD-WISE subscale of spirituality and examining its associations with various relevant measures.


Data were collected from a national-level sample of 1,786 community-dwelling adults age 20-82 years, as part of an Amazon M-Turk cohort. Participants completed the 24-item SD-WISE along with several subscales of a commonly used Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality, along with validated scales for well-being, resilience, happiness, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and social network.


Using latent variable models, we developed a Spirituality subscale, which demonstrated acceptable psychometric properties including a unidimensional factor structure and good reliability. Spirituality correlated positively with age and was higher in women than in men. The expanded 28-item, 7-subscale SD-WISE total score (called the Jeste-Thomas Wisdom Index or JTWI) demonstrated acceptable psychometric properties. The Spirituality subscale was positively correlated with good mental health and well-being, and negatively correlated with poor mental health. However, compared to other components of wisdom, the Spirituality factor showed weaker (i.e., small-to-medium vs. medium-to-large) association with the SD-WISE higher-order Wisdom factor (JTWI).


Similar to other components as well as overall wisdom, spirituality is significantly associated with better mental health and well-being, and may add to the predictive utility of the total wisdom score. Spirituality is, however, a weaker contributor to overall wisdom than components like pro-social behaviors and emotional regulation. Longitudinal studies of larger and more diverse samples are needed to explore mediation effects of these constructs on well-being and health.

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