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Tue Feb 28, 2012, 04:34 PM

Study questions religion-depression link

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/sns-rt-us-religion-depressiontre81r1r3-20120228,0,5844257.story

Amy Norton Reuters

1:26 p.m. CST, February 28, 2012

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Some research has suggested that religious people may have a buffer against major depression -- but new findings cast some doubt on that.

Researchers said people who develop depression might be more likely to stop going to services, which could explain why those who regularly go to religious services have lower rates of depression than the less-devout.

The new study found evidence of just that.

Among 2,100 Americans followed from birth to about middle-age, women who had developed depression early in life -- before age 18 -- were more likely than others to stop going to religious services by their early 20s.


more at link

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Reply Study questions religion-depression link (Original post)
cbayer Feb 2012 OP
dmallind Feb 2012 #1
cbayer Feb 2012 #2
On the Road Feb 2012 #3
cbayer Feb 2012 #4
Igel Mar 2012 #5

Response to cbayer (Original post)

Tue Feb 28, 2012, 04:58 PM

1. Frankly I think either is possible

I'm no expert in depression, but I strongly suspect a built in social group with a side of believing in some comforting speculation about your place and importance in the universe is likely to be beneficial, and plenty of religions can offer that. So can other things of course but none are as ubiquitous as congregations.

On the other hand even what little I know includes that sufferers often withdraw from social commitments, which would include religious attendance.

But in either event we cannot conclude from depression + religion = better outcomes that lack of religion = depression.

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Response to dmallind (Reply #1)

Tue Feb 28, 2012, 05:02 PM

2. Agree with you.

I think there are way too many variables to draw legitimate conclusions about this.

I did find it interesting that woman who develop depression at younger ages have withdrawn from their religious organizations. It's just not clear whether they withdrew because they were depressed or whether they became depressed after they withdrew.

And the lack of any correlation in males is also interesting.

But none of it is very conclusive or convincing.

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Response to cbayer (Original post)

Tue Feb 28, 2012, 07:55 PM

3. I Am Sure That is an Artifact of Previous Studies

Anything as powerful as religious belief has got to have a major impact on depression, but it may be more complex than simply helping or hurting.

Sometimes feelings of inadequacy, shame, or guilt can be magnified by religion. Religious and cultural history is full of tortured souls. John Bunyan, Isaac Newton, Martin Luther, Meister Eckhart, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Soren Kierkegaard -- all had some symptoms of depression but framed those issues in religious ways, such as Eckhart's "dark night of the soul" and the type of despair described in Bunyan's "slough of despond." Kierkegaard was emphatic that despair is not a symptom of a disease but an existential condition that should be wrestled with rather than cured. I suspect that how depression is understood affects the sufferer's prospects a lot. Bunyan wrote "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners" after going through a very severe time of despair.

On the hand, religion can be one of the most powerful antidotes to despair known to man. Conversions and religious experiences tend to be belittled nowadays, but they create a barrier against depression as effective as being in love. The fellowship of likeminded believers can be one of the purest experiences of acceptance, love, and hope.

The subject of the study is a good one, but the methodology is simpleminded compared to the richness and variety of the subject matter.



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Response to On the Road (Reply #3)

Tue Feb 28, 2012, 08:07 PM

4. Exactly.

The complexity of this far exceeds the methods.

Your description of how religious beliefs could both help or hurt a person in despair really makes sense to me.

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Response to cbayer (Original post)

Fri Mar 2, 2012, 08:08 PM

5. Sure.

Define your terms, get your answers.

My church lost young people. They were usually depressed before they left. It was a rift with their former social group and often with their family, and usually the tensions were noticeable before they actually decided to leave. They'd typically have some issue with a doctrine or practice or clique and this would create strains. Pinning down whether the depression led to the rift or the rift led to the depression is going to be hard because they'd reinforce each other.

I've known people who were depressed but not utterly passive (or willfully passive) who were pulled into churches and found that the set beliefs, encouragement and rebuking and exhortation and the social networking were a great relief and helped them climb out of their depression.

Often the default hypothesis is wrong in studies. Hard to get past that if it's a deeply ingrained assumption.

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