Seems like a no brainer to me, but of course someone had to do a study on the obvious.
Researchers at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., enrolled 159 men and women in a cognitive behavioral therapy program that involved, on average, 10 daylong sessions of group therapy, individual counseling and, in some cases, medications. About 60 percent of the participants were being treated for depression, while others had bipolar disorder, anxiety or other diagnoses.
All were asked to rate their spirituality by answering a single question: “To what extent do you believe in God?”
The results, published in The Journal of Affective Disorders, revealed that about 80 percent of participants reported some belief in God. Strength of belief was unrelated to the severity of initial symptoms. Over all, those who rated their spiritual belief as most important to them appeared to be less depressed after treatment than those with little or no belief. They also appeared less likely to engage in self-harming behaviors.
“Patients who had higher levels of belief in God demonstrated more effects of treatment,” said the study’s lead author, David H. Rosmarin, a psychologist at McLean Hospital and director of the Center for Anxiety in New York. “They seemed to get more bang for their buck, so to speak.”
“It’s one of the first studies I’ve read that actually looks at perhaps a mechanism” for “why we see some correlation between the strength of religious commitment or the strength of spiritual commitment and better outcomes,” said Dr. Marilyn Baetz, a psychiatrist at the University of Saskatchewan who studies the effects of religion and spirituality on mental health.
An earlier yearlong study by Dr. Baetz and her colleagues found that people with panic disorder who rated religion as “very important” responded better to cognitive behavioral therapy, showing less stress and anxiety, than those who rated religion as less important.
Most Americans believe in God — 92 percent, according to a 2011 Gallup poll, though the percentage among mental health professionals may be considerably lower. One study from 2003 found that 65 percent of psychiatrists said they believed in God, compared with 77 percent of other physicians.
Previous research has associated church attendance with increased life expectancy and, in some studies, a reduced risk of depression. But this study looked not at how often the participants went to church or at their religious affiliation but at their belief in a higher power.
Torrey Creed, an assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania said, “I think that as a study of cognitive styles, there’s a pattern of thinking that really does help people get better in treatment. And the foundation of that think pattern is ‘I believe in God,” and “I believe He will help me get well”. Say it often, it’s as true as the air we breathe.