Church Attendance May Protect Young People from Depression

According a recent study, regular engagement in religious activity can help young girls reduce the risk of developing depression. The study, led by Daniel Rasic, MD, of the Department of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, was conducted to determine the effects of religious attendance on depression in young people. Rasic looked at 976 high school students while they were in 10th grade. He evaluated their symptoms of depression and frequency of religious worship attendance. Two years later, Rasic re-evaluated the teens to determine how regular religious attendance affected depression and how depression affected religious attendance.

Rasic found that for girls, religious attendance that occurred monthly or more had a significant protective effect on depressive symptoms. Specifically, girls who had no depressive symptoms at baseline and who attended church regularly were less likely to develop depression two years later when compared to non-church-going girls. This effect was most likely the result of self-efficacy, which was stronger in the attendees.

When Rasic examined the effect of church attendance on the boys, he found that those with depressed symptoms who regularly attended church saw a decrease in symptoms. However, many of the boys with elevated symptoms of depression at baseline had decreases in church attendance two years later and, subsequently, increases in depression.

This result can be viewed as bidirectional, according to Rasic. He believes that depression decreases the motivation for social interaction, and thus weakens the positive effect of regular church attendance. Likewise, decreasing church attendance removes the protective buffer of the social support the boys may need, and puts them at further risk for increased symptoms of depression.

Rasic notes that other factors, such as family support, peer support, and comorbid conditions may also influence these findings, but those factors were not fully examined in this study. Despite that, he believes that these findings could be valuable for young people, their family members, and mental health professionals. Children at risk for depression may benefit greatly from increased religious engagement. “However,” added Rasic, “Clinicians should also be aware that a decline in religious activity among youth may also be a sign of underlying depression.”

Rasic, Daniel, MD, et al. (2013). Longitudinal associations of importance of religion and frequency of service attendance with depression risk among adolescents in Nova Scotia. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 58.5 (2013): 291-9. ProQuest. Web.

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  • caroline


    August 22nd, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    If only there were more families who made church a priority in their lives and the lives of their children, I think that you would see significant improvements in society as a whole.
    I recognize that organized religion is not a standard part of everyone’s life, but I think that if you found the one that is the right fit for you you would see what a wonderful means of support your church home could be for you and your whole family.
    I did not have this as a child growing up but knew in many ways that this was something that I wanted when I had my own family so I made this a priority when I got married and had a child. Needless to say this has made a world of difference in my life. I think that I am so much more content and happy with life and in my role as a parent than my own parents ever were and I attribut a large part of this to the support that I have from my church
    We are not there every time the doors are open, but I know that when I need something that I have a family there to love and support me, blood members or not, and that means a great deal to me.

  • Allie


    August 22nd, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    Not easy to convince young people about church!hopefully scientific studies such as these will bring about a change in their attitude and they finally start to see the benefits of religion and church,even if it is for a personal gain.

  • Holly


    August 23rd, 2013 at 4:03 AM

    There are a couple of different ways to look at this though. Is it really that they are going to church, or does it just happen to be the case that maybe the church families in these studies do more together and spend more time together and therefore have a better chance of helping ward off developing depression in their daughters? It’s just something that I thought that someone might bring up who is looking to pick a fight against the church and find a way to minimize the significance that you have found.

  • Phoenix Family Counselors

    Phoenix Family Counselors

    August 23rd, 2013 at 4:06 AM

    It has been observed that we indulge in religious activities we can avoid falling into depression.

  • Whitney


    August 24th, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    Unless you just have a blatant disrespect for religion then why on earth wouldn’t you choose to have this extra support for your child? I like knowing that there are other families and ministers out there and available who are there with advice and who care about my child and her well being like I do, and who are there to offer that same spiritual guidance as she navigates her way through life. Alot of us weren’t lucky enough to have any of that growing up so if I can help her have even extra helping hands as she grows up, then why wouldn’t I want to help give that to her? Even if I have questions about religion, maybe going to church together is the only way to learn and figure things out. I don’t think that it is going to ever hurt.

  • Kate H

    Kate H

    October 5th, 2016 at 12:04 PM

    It’s interesting that you point out that studies show that regular engagement in religious activity can help young girls reduce the risk of developing depression. I feel like lots of youth these days become depressed, but not enough go to church. Going to church and putting your hope and faith into something probably helps reduce that risk a lot. I’ll have to show this to my husband so we make sure we take our family to church more regularly.

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