Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Research suggests that religious belief can help protect against symptoms of depression
In patients diagnosed with clinical depression, belief in a concerned God can improve response to medical treatment. A total of 136 adults diagnosed with major depression or bipolar depression at inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care facilities in Chicago participated in the study. The patients were surveyed shortly after admission for treatment and eight weeks later, using the Beck Depression Inventory, the Beck Hopelessness Scale, and the Religious Well-Being Scale - all standard instruments in the social sciences for assessing intensity, severity and depth of disease and feelings of hopelessness and spiritual satisfaction. Response to medication, defined as a 50% reduction in symptoms, can vary in psychiatric patients. Some may not respond at all. But the study found that those with strong beliefs in a personal and concerned God were more likely to experience an improvement. Specifically, participants who scored in the top third of the Religious Well-Being Scale were 75% more likely to get better with medical treatment for clinical depression. The researchers tested whether the explanation for the improved response was linked instead to the feeling of hope, which is typically a feature of religious belief. But degree of hopefulness, measured by feelings and expectations for the future and degree of motivation, did not predict whether a patient fared better on anti-depressants.