Anxiety (Panic)/DepressionReligion/ Spirituality

Religion and major depression in adults

Researchers at Columbia University, in New York, previously reported that the personal importance of religion or spirituality was associated with a lower risk for major depression.

Now, they report the importance of religion among the offspring of the participants in that earlier study.

First, the details.

  • 114 adult offspring of depressed and nondepressed parents were followed for 10 years.
  • Diagnosis was assessed with the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia-Lifetime Version, which is used for studies requiring detailed lifetime information on anxiety disorders, symptoms, and traits.
  • The importance of religion or spirituality, frequency of attending religious services, and denomination (all participants were Catholic or Protestant) were recorded.

And, the results.

  • Offspring who reported that religion or spirituality was highly important to them had about one-fourth the risk of experiencing major depression compared with other participants.
    • Religious attendance and denomination did not predict this outcome.
  • The effect was most pronounced among offspring at high risk for depression by virtue of having a depressed parent.
    • In this group, those who reported a high importance of religion or spirituality had about one-tenth the risk of experiencing major depression compared with those who did not.
  • The protective effect was found primarily against recurrence rather than onset of depression.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Religion or spirituality may have a protective effect against recurrence of depression, particularly in adults with a history of parental depression.”

These researchers are not the first to report this. A summary of other studies is here.

Why it is necessary to lump religion and spirituality? They are not the same and deserve to be studied separately or as a comparison.

9/27/11 23:20 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.