Belief in God may boost depression treatment: study

Belief in GodBelief in God may boost depression treatment: study. (Thinkstock)

The power of prayer! Belief in God may improve treatment for those suffering with depression, a new study claimed. Patients who believe in God may significantly improve the outcome of receiving short-term treatment for psychiatric illness, according to researchers.

In the study, David H Rosmarin, McLean Hospital clinician and instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, examined individuals in an effort to investigate the relationship between patients' level of belief in God expectations for treatment and actual treatment outcomes.

"Our work suggests that people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without, regardless of their religious affiliation. "Belief was associated with not only improved psychological wellbeing, but decreases in depression and intention to self-harm," said Rosmarin.

The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, looked at 159 patients, recruited over a one-year period. Each participant was asked to gauge their belief in God as well as their expectations for treatment outcome and emotion regulation, each on a five-point scale.

Of the patients sampled, more than 30 per cent claimed no specific religious affiliation yet still saw the same benefits in treatment if their belief in a higher power was rated as moderately or very high.

Patients with "no" or only "slight" belief in God were twice as likely not to respond to treatment than patients with higher levels of belief. "Belief in God is associated with improved treatment outcomes in psychiatric care. More centrally, our results suggest that belief in the credibility of psychiatric treatment and increased expectations to gain from treatment might be mechanisms by which belief in God can impact treatment outcomes," researchers concluded.

"Given the prevalence of religious belief in the United States - over 90 per cent of the population - these findings are important in that they highlight the clinical implications of spiritual life. I hope that this work will lead to larger studies and increased funding in order to help as many people mas possible," Rosmarin said.

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