It’s reported that the personal importance of religion or spirituality is associated with a lower risk for major depression.

Researchers at Columbia University, in New York City, examined this association in adults.

First, the details.

  • 114 adult offspring of depressed and nondepressed parents were followed for 10 to 20 years.
  • Diagnosis was assessed with the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia–Lifetime Version (designed to obtain detailed lifetime information on anxiety disorders, symptoms and traits).
  • Religiosity measures included personal importance of religion or spirituality, frequency of attendance at religious services, and denomination (all participants were Catholic or Protestant).

And, the results.

  • Among individuals who were Protestant or Catholic, those who reported religion or spirituality as highly important were 76% less likely to experience an episode of major depression during the follow-up period.
  • Religious attendance and denomination had no impact on the results.
  • The protective effect was experienced primarily among people at high risk because their parents experienced depression.

The bottom line?

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Dan Blazer at Duke University Medical Center, tells us that although “this study is the first long-term outcome study on the impact of religion or spirituality on the emergence of depression, it confirms a growing literature, including a previous study by the authors that generally supports the benefit of religion or spirituality (usually religious participation) in decreasing the frequency and recurrence of depressive disorders.”

Furthermore, “The findings do suggest that clinicians should consider the religion or spirituality of their patients as part of the psychiatric evaluation, one more piece of the puzzle that makes up the person, whom we try to understand as well as possible so we can provide help to the best of our ability.”

1/15/12 22:36 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.