of suicide as a solution to life’s problems. In a study involving 100 college students, Ellis and Smith (1991), using the Reasons for Living Inventory (Linehan et al., 1983) and the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (Paloutzian and Ellison, 1982), found results that strongly indicate a high positive relationship between an individual’s religious well-being (faith in God) and that person’s moral objections to suicide; existential well-being correlated with adaptive survival and coping beliefs (see Chapter 3). Decades-long study of at-risk individuals has also suggested that religious involvement and beliefs can influence positive outcomes by providing persons with a sense of meaning and purpose (Werner, 1992; 1996).

Several epidemiologic studies have reported lower rates of depression among religious persons, whether healthy or medically ill (Kendler et al., 1997; Kennedy et al., 1996; Koenig et al., 1992; Koenig et al., 1997; Pressman et al., 1990). Koenig et al. (1998) also found that intrinsic religiousness (i.e., religious beliefs representing a person’s primary, unifying life motive) significantly increased the speed of remission from depression by 70 percent for every 10-point increase on the Hoge Intrinsic Religiousness scale. These changes were independent of other factors predicted to speed remission, including changing physical health status, religious activity, and social support.

Religious activity has also been found to be protective against suicide risk factors such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and anxiety disorder (Braam et al., 1997a; Braam et al., 1997b; Gorsuch, 1995; Koenig et al., 1992; Koenig et al., 1993; Koenig et al., 1994; Pressman et al., 1990). Further, a number of studies provide some evidence that spiritual protective factors (e.g., religious beliefs) may inoculate individuals against stressful life experiences (Conway, 1985-1986; Koenig et al., 1999; McRae, 1984; Pargament, 1990; Pargament et al., 1998; Park and Cohen, 1993; Park et al., 1990). At least one study has found attenuation of immune-inflammatory responses in those who regularly attend religious activities that could not be explained by differences in depression, negative life events, or other covariates (Koenig et al., 1997).

Koenig et al. (1998) noted that using spiritual/religious practices to treat depression and anxiety has been found effective. Propst et al. (1992) found religious therapy resulted in significantly faster recovery from depression when compared with standard secular cognitive-behavioral therapy. Similarly, Azhar et al. (1994) randomized 62 Muslim patients with generalized anxiety disorder to either traditional treatment (supportive therapy and anxiolytic drugs) or traditional treatment plus religious psychotherapy. Religious psychotherapy involved the use of prayer and reading verses of the Holy Koran specific to the person’s situation. Patients receiving religious psychotherapy showed significantly more rapid improvement in anxiety symptoms than those receiving traditional

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement