Surveys Suggest Religion Helps Mental Health

By:  Bruce Walker
11/16/2011
       
Surveys Suggest Religion Helps Mental Health

According to a study published in the Journal of Religion and Health recently, regular attendance at religious services produces a more optimistic outlook on life and a reduced inclination to depression. Those respondents to the survey who attended religious services more than once a week in the prior month were 56 percent more likely to be above the median score on a measurement for optimism than those who had not attended religious services at all. Respondents who attended weekly religious services were 22 percent less likely to be depressed than those who did not attend religious services.

Not everyone agrees, however, about what exactly these numbers mean. Eliezer Schnall, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Yeshiva University in New York notes that: "There is a correlation, but that does not mean there is causality. One could argue people who are more optimistic may be drawn to religious services. The person who says, 'I guess if I go to services, that will make me more optimistic' -— while a possibility, that may not be true."

A 2008 study conducted by Schnall found that those who sent to religious services regularly had a 20 percent reduced risk of death over the period of the study and its follow up.  Schnall again cautioned against reading too much into the study: "We're trying to connect the dots here. We know they're less likely to die, and health outcomes can be related to psychological factors."

According to a study published in the Journal of Religion and Health recently, regular attendance at religious services produces a more optimistic outlook on life and a reduced inclination to depression. Those respondents to the survey who attended religious services more than once a week in the prior month were 56 percent more likely to be above the median score on a measurement for optimism than those who had not attended religious services at all. Respondents who attended weekly religious services were 22 percent less likely to be depressed than those who did not attend religious services.

Not everyone agrees, however, about what exactly these numbers mean. Eliezer Schnall, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Yeshiva University in New York notes that: "There is a correlation, but that does not mean there is causality. One could argue people who are more optimistic may be drawn to religious services. The person who says, 'I guess if I go to services, that will make me more optimistic' -— while a possibility, that may not be true."

A 2008 study conducted by Schnall found that those who sent to religious services regularly had a 20 percent reduced risk of death over the period of the study and its follow up.  Schnall again cautioned against reading too much into the study: "We're trying to connect the dots here. We know they're less likely to die, and health outcomes can be related to psychological factors."

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