Going to church can get a person in good with God, but it can also keep him or her from getting depressed.
A recent Temple study shows the amount of religious activities people have can determine their levels of happiness and sense of purpose in life.
Researchers surveyed 918 participants in the study, dividing them into three groups: religious service attendance, religious well being and existential well being.
The religious well being group describes the participants’ personal relationship with a higher being.
Participants were surveyed anonymously through a set of questionnaires in the mail. Face-to-face interviews were proven to be interesting as well.
The study stems from the data set of a birth-cohort study conducted 50 years ago in the New England region. The study followed children of pregnant women throughout their entire lives to observe religious patterns and their stages of happiness. New England was chosen because of its high concentration of Christians.
Dr. Joanna Maselko from Temple’s public health department began the recent study with an interest in mental health.
“There is a complex relationship between religion and mental health,” Maselko said. “We really don’t know how religiosity affects mental health personally.”
Using a set of empirical data, Maselko and her team studied the relationship between church attendance and spirituality. Given the three groups, Maselko learned a person’s religiosity has numerous factors, each of which must be looked at separately, including age.
“People tend to become more religious when they’re young, starting with their parents taking them to church,” Maselko said. “As they get older, they tend to stray from faith, until they begin raising families of their own.”
Each of the three groups studied showed different results, with the second and third groups showing the greatest difference.
Those who attended religious services were 30 percent less likely to feel depressed, due to the social interaction activities church provided for them.
In the second group, participants felt they shared a personal relationship with a higher being, and they were found to be at a 1.5 percent greater risk in having a history of depression, in comparison to those who demonstrated lower levels of religious well being.
Participants from the third group, which included people who possessed existential well being, said they felt they had a greater sense of purpose in life and were more emotionally stable.
The next step in the study requires researchers to combine childhood and adulthood data and examine the long-term trends overtime.
Maselko said college students would be great prospects for a future study.
“It would be interesting to do the study among college students,” Maselko said. “College students are very influx about their mental health, and to see their coping mechanisms in times of stress would be interesting.”
Kylee Messner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.