Objective: Although there have been numerous studies on the relation of religion or spirituality and major depression, few used a longitudinal, nationally representative sample. Our study sought to examine the effect of religious attendance, self-declared importance of spiritual values, and self-identification as a spiritual person on major depression.
Method: Data coming from 8 waves (1994 to 2008) of the longitudinal Canadian National Population Health Survey were used. People (n = 12 583) who were not depressed at baseline (1994) were followed during 14 years. Depression at each cycle was assessed using the Composite International Interview-Short Form for Major Depression. Weibull proportional hazards regression was used to model longitudinal risk of depression, with religious attendance or spirituality as a predictor.
Results: At baseline, monthly religious attenders tended to be older, female, and married, compared with occasional and nonattenders. The Weibull regression model revealed a 22% lower risk of depression for monthly attenders (hazard ratio 0.78, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.95), compared with nonattenders, after controlling for age, household income, family and personal history of depression, marital status, education, and perceived social support. Neither self-reported importance of spiritual values nor identification as a spiritual person was related to major depressive episodes.
Conclusion: Attending religious services at least monthly has a protective effect against major depression.