Belief in a caring God antidote to depression

February 24th, 2010 - 3:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 24 (IANS) Belief in a caring God can act as an antidote to depression, says a new study.
Rush University Medical Centre (RUMC) researchers surveyed 136 adults diagnosed with major depression or bipolar depression at inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care facilities.

“In our study, the positive response to medication had little to do with the feeling of hope that typically accompanies spiritual belief,” said Patricia Murphy, chaplain at Rush and an assistant professor of religion, health and human values at Rush University.

“It was tied specifically to the belief that a Supreme Being cared,” added Murphy, who led the study.

Patients were surveyed shortly after admission for treatment and eight weeks later with standard instruments in social sciences for assessing intensity, severity and depth of disease and feelings of hopelessness and spiritual satisfaction.

Response to medication, defined as a 50 percent reduction in symptoms, can vary in psychiatric patients.

Some may not respond at all. But the study found that those with strong beliefs in a personal and concerned God were more likely to experience an improvement.

Specifically, participants who scored in the top third of the Religious Well-Being Scale were 75 percent more likely to get better with medical treatment for clinical depression.

Researchers tested whether the explanation for the improved response was linked instead to the feeling of hope, which is typically a feature of religious belief, said a Rush University release.

But degree of hopefulness, measured by feelings and expectations for the future and degree of motivation, did not predict whether a patient fared better on anti-depressants.

“For people diagnosed with clinical depression, medication certainly plays an important role in reducing symptoms,” Murphy said.

These findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

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