Public release date: 7-Oct-2003

Forgiveness linked to spinal cord injury rehab
Improved health and life satisfaction reported

Study shows that forgivness helps in medical rehabilitation of spinal cord injury patients. Forgiveness was found to improve health in those patients. Patients who were more forgiving of themselves and of others reported more satisfaction with their lives. They rated their own health status higher and were also more likely to perform healthy behaviors.
The findings will be presented at the Conference on Forgiveness in Atlanta October 24-25. To register, log on to the Press Room at

1) Understand the relevance of forgiveness in medical rehabilitation,
2) Examine the role of forgiveness in the direct promotion of health and well-being among people with spinal cord injury
3) Examine the relationship between forgiveness and health behavior in the promotion of health and well-being among people with spinal cord injury.

Motor vehicle accidents and violence cause 63% of spinal cord injury (SCI) sustained in America, thereby increasing the risk for negative emotion, stress, and dysfunctional behavior among people with SCI which, in turn, can lead to diminished physical and mental health. Forgiveness, largely unexamined in the rehabilitation process, is highly relevant to coping with aggressive and accidental trauma. Its effect in promoting health may be both direct and indirect through health behavior. We present preliminary findings from an ongoing self-report survey-based longitudinal study examining the role of forgiveness in promoting health and well-being among people with SCI. As such, we expected to find significant and positive relationships between forgiveness of self (FS) and others (FO) and health-status (H), health-behaviors (HB), and life-satisfaction (LS). A community-based sample of 140 adults (age at injury (AI): 16+; 90% Caucasian, 6% African-American0; 75% male; 79% high school education/above) with SCI (52/48% paraplegia/tetraplegia) were included in the analysis of the first wave of data. Correlational analyses indicated the following: FS and FO to LS (r=.258) and education (r=.200), FS to HB (r=.196) and tetraplegia (r=.259), and FO to H (r=.203) and AI (r=.244). Simultaneous examinations of FS and FO in hierarchical regression analyses (controlling demographic variables) indicated that forgiveness predicted 7-13% of the variance in H, HB, and LS. FS predicted LS (B=.651; R2 delta =.130; R2=.20) and HB (B=.159; R2 delta =.070; R2=.19) and FO predicted H (B=.559; R2 delta .090; R2=.14). Forgiveness has a positive effect on health among people with SCI, yet varies by type (FS - LS & HB; FO - H). Also, associations between demographics and type suggest an impact in determining treatment protocols. Replication of these findings in SCI and other rehabilitation populations is warranted. Further analyses regarding indirect health effects and longitudinal relationships will be conducted and presented at the conference. (Supported by Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, NIH grant T32AA07477, and United States Department of Education grant H133P990014).

Dr. Jon R. Webb is a licensed psychologist and a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Research Fellow at the University of Michigan (UM) in the Department of Psychiatry, Division of Substance Abuse, Addiction Research Center.