Studies have found evidence that forgiving another confers mental health benefits on us.
Now, those studies are confirmed by a longitudinal study, every two years since 1989, of 54,703 female nurses from 14 states.
Interestingly, the Nurses’ Health Study II survey specifically assessed forgiveness that was spiritually or religiously motivated, with the specification that “Because of my spiritual or religious beliefs, I have forgiven those who hurt me.”
The study found that:
- Those who reported having forgiven others more frequently showed subsequent improvements in positive affect and social integration compared to those who said they forgave never or seldomly.
- Those who forgive also showed lower depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, loneliness, and hopelessness.
- These results remained when controlling for various confounders such as age, race, marital status, religious service attendance, and income.
- However, the study found no convincing evidence that forgiveness was linked to subsequent differences in physical health-related outcomes. But the study’s span of 7 years may not be enough time to observe the physical health consequences of forgiveness, especially considering the fact that stress-related physical health effects manifest themselves over time.
Led by epidemiologist Katelyn N. G. Long of the Harvard T.H. Chan Institute of Public Health, the study was published on October 1, 2020, in the journal, BMC Psychology.