Anxiety (Panic)/DepressionReligion/ Spirituality

Belief in God and psychiatric treatment outcomes

spiritualityBelief in God is common and tied to mental health and illness in the general population.

Researchers at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School, in Belmont, Massachusetts, studied its relevance to psychiatric patients.

First, the details.

  • 159 patients in a day-treatment program at an academic psychiatric hospital participated in the study.
    • 80% of participants reported some belief in God.
  • Belief in God, treatment credibility/expectancy, emotion regulation, and congregational support were assessed before treatment.
  • The researchers measured treatment response as well as degree of reduction in depression over treatment.

And, the results.

  • Belief in God
    • Significantly higher among treatment responders than non-responders
    • Significantly associated with greater reductions in depression and greater improvements in psychological well-being over the course of treatment
  • Confounding factors
    • Outcomes did not change after controlling for age and gender.
    • Belief in God and reductions in depression were affected by perceived treatment credibility/expectancy.
      • But not emotional regulation or community support
  • Religious affiliation
    • Associated with treatment credibility/expectancy
    • Not associated with treatment outcomes

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Belief in God, but not religious affiliation, was associated with better treatment outcomes. With respect to depression, this relationship was mediated by belief in the credibility of treatment and expectations for treatment gains.”

Although the strength of belief was unrelated to the severity of initial symptoms, patients with higher levels of belief in God demonstrated greater effects of treatment in this study.

Studying belief in a higher power rather than how often a person goes to church is probably a better way to get to the point of these types of studies. More on this topic is here.

7/12/13 9:14 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.