If you read last Thursday’s post, you know spiritual involvement affects depression in a major way: A review of 444 quantitative research studies, spanning 50 years, found that religious/spiritual involvement lessened the incidence of depression and/or reduced depression severity in over 60% of the studies.
But wait! There’s more!
These review authors didn’t just tally up all the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ results and throw out a flashy number. Nope, they rated the methodological rigor of each study on a scale of one to ten. These ratings emphasized study design, sampling method, number and quality of religious/spiritual measures, quality of mental health outcome measures, inclusion of control variables… you get the drift. Then they looked at the numbers again.
Of the 444 studies, 178 (40%) were rated 7 or higher. Of those (we’ll call them the best studies), 67% found less depression, faster recovery and/or greater responsiveness to religious/spiritual interventions – that’s even better than the first statistic!
If you’re still not impressed (and if you’re still not impressed, this is a really tough crowd!), let’s take a look at religiosity and depression in high risk individuals:
A 2012 study followed 114 adult offspring of depressed and non-depressed parents over the course of 20 years (religious feelings were assessed at the 10-year mark). The result? Those who indicated that religion/spirituality was highly important to them were 73% less likely to be depressed! But that’s not even the cool part. Those at high risk of developing depression (due to prenatal depression), who indicated at the beginning that religion/spirituality was highly important to them, were 90% less likely to have major depression. 90%!!
Ok, and just one more: A second report from this same study examined the relationship between religion/spirituality and future depression episodes based on level of exposure to negative life events (which can be a huge trigger for depression).
I think we all know where this is going, so here’s the numbers:
For high risk participants (those with depressed parents) who had high exposure to negative life events, attendance at religious services reduced the likelihood of major depression on follow-up by 76%, mood disorders by 69% and any psychiatric disorder by 64%. Self-claimed importance of religion/spirituality also reduced the odds of mood disorders in this group by 74%!
Now that’s a lot of numbers, so we’ll just let all that sink in for a little bit. But don’t worry – posts in the next few weeks will look into why these numbers are so high!
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Do you consider religion/spirituality to be important? Have you ever noticed a relationship between your spiritual involvement and mental health? Are these numbers what you would expect?
Bonelli, R., Dew, R.E., Koenig, H.G., Rosmarin, D.H. & Vasegh, S. (2012). Religious and spiritual factors in depression: review and integration of the research. Depression Research and Treatment, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/962860
Kasen, S., Wickramaratne, P. & Gameroff, M. J. (2011). Religiosity and resilience in persons at high risk for major depression. Psychological Medicine, 17, 1–11. doi: 10.1017/S0033291711001516
Miller, L., Wickramaratne, P., Gameroff, M. J., Sage, M., Tenke, C. E. & Weissman, M. M. (2012). Religiosity and major depression in adults at high risk: a ten-year prospective study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 169(1), 89–94. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2011.10121823