Family Spirituality and Family Health Among Korean-American Elderly Couples

Suk Sun Kim, Yeoun Soo Kim-Godwin, Harold G. Koenig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Spirituality has been regarded as an individual and private matter; consequently, research on spirituality as a family phenomenon has been largely neglected. In addition, most published research has been focused on Western cultures. The purpose of this study was to explore the experience of family spirituality and how it influences health among Korean-American elderly couples who are the first generation to reside in the Southeastern USA. A thematic and interpretive data analysis method was used. Thirteen elderly couples (N = 26) participated in in-depth individual interviews in Korean with the primary author. Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed, and then translated by two bilingual researchers with a background in Korean and American culture. Three main themes of family spirituality were identified: (1) family togetherness, (2) family interdependence, and (3) family coping. Also, participants reported that family spirituality strengthened family health by fostering family commitment, improving emotional well-being, developing new healthy behaviors, and providing healing experiences. This finding implies that healthcare providers need to assess family spiritual issues of elderly couples to maximize their strengths for coping with health problems. As our society becomes more culturally diverse, healthcare providers should seek to understand family spirituality from different cultural perspectives to develop a more holistic approach to care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-746
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Religion and Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study is a part of the postdoctoral fellow research of the first author from the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health, Duke University Medical Center, which was funded by John Templeton Foundation. We gratefully acknowledge editing by Dr. Beverly Rosenthal and Dr. John Godwin.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Elderly couples
  • Family health
  • Family spirituality
  • Korean-Americans


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