Going to Church May Improve Mental Health

Spirituality Lowers Risk of Substance Abuse, Adds Meaning to Life, Study Shows

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on May 26, 2005
From the WebMD Archives

May 26, 2005 (Atlanta) -- Going to church is good for your mental health.

A new survey of nearly 37,000 men and women shows that people who regularly attend church, synagogue, or other religious services are less likely to suffer from depression and other psychiatric illnesses than those who don't.

"The higher the worship frequency, the lower the odds of depression, mania, and panic disorders," says researcher Marilyn Baetz, MD, of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. The findings add to growing evidence that faith may positively affect your mental well-being, she says.

Duke University's Marian Butterfeld, MD, MPH, agrees. "Going to church may be a proxy for social support. And studies show social support is protective against both physical and mental illness."

Spiritual Values May Protect Against Drug Abuse

For the survey, nearly 37,000 people over age 15 were asked how often they attend religious services and to rate, on a scale of 1 to 4, whether their spiritual values help to provide meaning to their lives.

Higher spiritual values seemed to protect against the risk of substance abuse.

Men and women who reported a greater sense of meaning in their lives were significantly less likely to have an alcohol and drug problem, Baetz says.

"Spirituality is dramatically important" to avoiding a destructive pattern of alcohol and drug abuse, she says.

"A psychiatric disorder is a BIG thing," she tells WebMD. "It causes you to search for what's going on, for meaning and significance. Pushed to their limit of their own personal resources, the illness causes people to search for answers outside themselves."

Show Sources

SOURCES: American Psychiatric Association 2005 international conference, Atlanta, May 21-26, 2005. Marilyn Baetz, MD, department of psychiatry, University of Saskatchewan, Canada. Marian Butterfeld, MD, MPH, chairwoman, APA Scientific Program Committee; Duke University, Durham, N.C.

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