Middle-aged men report greater levels of spirituality after exposure to the hormone oxytocin.
According to the research, the release of oxytocin not only promotes social bonding and helps childbirth in women, but also stimulates increased feelings of religiousness.
A research team from Duke University in North Carolina carried out a study in which they boosted levels of oxytocin in middle-aged men and found increased self-reported spirituality on two separate measures and also that this effect remained significant a week later.
A control group who received a placebo did not report higher levels of spirituality.
Those who received the hormone also reported more positive emotions during meditation.
Patty Van Cappallen, a social psychologist and the lead author of the study said: “Spirituality and meditation have each been linked to health and well-being in previous research.
“We were interested in understanding biological factors that may enhance those spiritual experiences,” she told the university’s newspaper Duke Today.
“Oxytocin appears to be part of the way our bodies support spiritual beliefs.”