Spirituality and Religiousness are Associated With Fewer Depressive Symptoms in Individuals With Medical Conditions

Psychosomatics. 2016 Sep-Oct;57(5):505-13. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2016.03.005. Epub 2016 Mar 24.


Background: The increased prevalence of depressive symptoms among adults diagnosed with chronic health issues has been largely documented.

Objectives: Research is needed to clarify the effect of religiousness/spirituality in relation to chronic health conditions and depression, to establish whether these variables can serve as protective factors.

Methods: Self-report data from a nationwide study of spirituality and health were used. Individuals with at least 1 chronic illness (N = 1696) formed the subsample for this study. Religiousness/spirituality variables included frequency of church attendance, prayer, religious meaning, religious hope, general meaning, general hope, peace, and view of God. Other variables included depressive symptoms and demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, and education).

Results: A series of hierarchical regression analyses revealed that chronic conditions were consistently associated with more depressive symptoms. Greater religiousness/spirituality was significantly associated with fewer depressive symptoms, contributing 16% of the variance above demographics and the number of chronic illnesses. The religiousness/spirituality variables conferring the greatest protection against depression were psychospiritual variables (general meaning and general hope, followed by peace). Also significant but making a smaller contribution to less depression were church attendance, religious meaning, religious hope, and positive view of God. Only prayer did not relate significantly to less depression.

Conclusion: Maintaining a sense of spirituality or religiousness can benefit well-being of individuals diagnosed with a chronic health condition, especially having meaning, maintaining hope, and having a sense of peace. Patients could potentially benefit from being offered the resources that support their spiritual/religious practices and beliefs as they cope with chronic illness.

Keywords: depression; hope.; illness; meaning; religiousness; spirituality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Protective Factors
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Social Support
  • Spirituality*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Young Adult