YOU ARE HERE: Burbank HomeCollectionsGod

In Theory: Does belief in the divine protect against depression?

July 11, 2013

Religion may be good for the soul, but there's now evidence it's good for a healthy mind, too.

A study by researchers in Canada has discovered that regular attendance at religious services can provide "significant protection against depression" — with the incidence of clinical depression dropping by 22% among those who regularly attend church.

Marilyn Baetz, head of the department of psychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan and a co-author of the study, which tracked 12,000 Canadians over 14 years, said she's a little puzzled as to why regular religious attendance helps so much. "The feeling is that if you belong to a religious organization, what you are really getting is just social support, nothing else," Baetz said. "But it would appear it is something over and above that."


The researchers feel that the friendships, contacts and support from others helps, but also point to the benefits of believers feeling they have "access to divine assistance" and in many cases a personal relationship with God.

Q: What do you think it is about religious attendance that helps protect against depression? Is it just the support of fellow congregants, the sense of belonging, or could there be some divine help?

Since I'm a minister, I certainly should say that there is some divine help involved! I certainly believe there is, at any rate. Since as far back as high school and maybe even earlier, I remember thinking that the existence of God was important, maybe the most important thing in life. And I still believe that.

If there is no God, to paraphrase St. Paul, then we believers are most to be pitied (I Corinthians 15: 19). But think of it: Why shouldn't believers be happier than nonbelievers? Wasn't there a movie one time called, "All This and Heaven, Too"?

What I'm getting at is that belief in the existence of God is or can be a gigantic comfort. Yes, there is the problem of evil. Yes, there is the problem of innocents suffering. No, I have no answer for either — but if God is, could anything be more smile-inducing? I really hope I don't sound like a ninny here, or an unthinking automaton — but if God is, and I'll paraphrase the poet John Keats — that's all I know and all I need to know ("Ode to a Grecian Urn").

Burbank Leader Articles Burbank Leader Articles