We recently started a series on Teleios’ exciting research findings! A list of our and others’ findings is on our website (www.teleiosresearch.com).
Religion recently has been associated with good wellbeing in the medical literature (1,2). However, can religion help those who are mentally distressed?
Teleios recently reviewed the medical literature to examine the influence of religion on depression. Our study showed that religion in First World countries had a positive impact on:
· Depressed individuals generally;
· Preventing depression in the physically diseased and their relatives (caregivers);
· Otherwise healthy subjects.
How can these positive findings regarding religion and depression be explained? We do not know for certain, however all the studies were performed in First World Christian countries. Christianity is unique among world religions in that access to God and salvation is through a gift of grace through faith alone and not by works.
Consequently, the Christian religion may have advantages in depressed people for the following reasons:
· God’s love – Having a proper view of God as loving and allowing acceptance and access by prayer by faith alone through Christ’s gracious death on the cross for our sins (Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 10:20-22). Therefore, even if a person feels badly about themselves for having depression or because of their past actions, knowing God’s acceptance might help allay these feelings.
· Hope – Christianity provides an eternal hope. Regardless of how a person might suffer with depression on earth there is a greater hope in heaven (Ephesians 1:13-14).
· Socialization – A caring and giving church might provide relief for depression by community service, positive social interactions and the encouragement of unified worship.
Despite the above speculation little research is available which specifically evaluates the elements of religious structure which might help depressed patients. MacIlvaine and Stewart and their coworkers have observed that Christianity generally assists wellbeing in both healthy and diseased populations (1-3). They especially noted that the more a person practiced and were knowledgeable about their faith, the better their wellbeing. This practice included: religious attendance, prayer, socialization at church, church or community service, speaking about their faith and Bible education, as well as basic knowledge about salvation (Acts 2:42,47)
Their findings are consistent with the findings presented above that an earnest and knowledgeable practice of Christianity helped depression such as: church attendance, general religiosity, spiritual beliefs, desire for spiritual growth, born-again experience and social support. In contrast, patients who limited the scope of their religious practice, or believed in an ungracious God (religious strain) experienced a lessor, or in some cases, a negative benefit.
This review suggests that Christianity might help patients with depression or symptoms of depression from a broad spectrum of demographic backgrounds. More research is needed to fully understand the effect of religion on depressed patients as well as the differences among religions and their influence on suffering patients.
Thank you for reading my blog. Please join me again next week as we discuss even more benefits of Biblical belief!
1. MacIlvaine WR, Nelson LA, Stewart JA, Stewart WC. Association of strength of community service to personal wellbeing. Community Ment Health J 2014; 50:577-582.
2. MacIlvaine WR, Nelson LA, Stewart JA, Stewart WC. Association of strength of religious adherence to quality of life measures. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2013;19:251-255.
3. Stewart WC, Reynolds KE, Jones LJ, Stewart JA, Nelson LA. The source and impact of specific parameters that enhance well-being in daily life. J Rel Health 2016;55:1326-1335.
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