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Belief In God Correlates With Better Mental Health Treatment Outcomes 931

Hatta writes "According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, belief in god is correlated with improved outcomes of treatment for depression. Quoting: 'In the study, published in the current issue of Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers comment 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. "Belief was associated with not only improved psychological well-being, but decreases in depression and intention to self-harm," says David H. Rosmarin, Ph.D., an instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.' This raises interesting questions. Does this support the concept of depressive realism? If the association is found to be causal, would it be ethical for a psychiatrist to prescribe religion?"
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Belief In God Correlates With Better Mental Health Treatment Outcomes

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:03PM (#43563107)

    Correlate to better outcomes during sex?

    • If it's Jesus getting it on with his dad, it's perfectly legit. If it's Jesus getting it on with his mother, Jesus might get jealous when she screams, "Oh, God!"

  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:04PM (#43563111) Journal

    That's what people crave. They can't live with the possibility that life might have no meaning at all, that we're just here and should make the best of it.

    • by sarysa ( 1089739 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:17PM (#43563225)
      But to have a sense of purpose in a meaningless world, it needs to be packaged properly. Religion is just a very effective and time-tested vessel for purpose.
      • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:30PM (#43563297)

        No Religion is the simplest and laziest method for giving some purpose. Have some mythical all knowing (or partially knowing depending on which religion) be the person responsible for "YOUR" actions.

        Humans are lazy. we like the simplest way of doing things. Things like using fear to control mobs, and having some fairy sky being responsible for your actions makes things much easier to understand.

        Religions generally use fear to control. If you don't follow us something bad will happen to you. However Fear while simple is actually the worst way to get someone to follow you. One day they will stop being afraid and if your lucky they will let you live while they leave.

        • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @08:03PM (#43563513)
          Try buddhism. Doesn't really use fear. Jsut says look deeply both internally and externally and try to do what is right.
        • by sarysa ( 1089739 )

          No Religion is the simplest and laziest method for giving some purpose.

          I agree with you pretty much completely, but you have to admit, it's still an effective package. You can dislike something and still admire its ability to perform some task. It's the kind of respect that an atheist who works for an advertising agency might have.

        • by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @08:24PM (#43563641)

          Supermarkets are the simplest and laziest method for obtaining food. I don't see you hunting, gathering or farming all your calories.

          Religions generally use fear to control.

          Nonsense. Religions generally are cultural practices, just like how you tend to dress like people in your subculture, you tend to participate in the same festivals as people in your country, and you tend to eat the same food as your ethnic group.

          The vast majority of religions are based on cultural identity, not fear. Of course, there are some notable exceptions.

          • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @08:42AM (#43566779)
            This is some of the most cart-before-the-horse anachronistic nonsense I've seen in some time.

            New religions are disruptive countercultures, look at any time and place where a new or foreign religion takes hold in an area with a different long standing belief system (which is to say, everywhere, every time, because we don't have historical accounts of any society that went from a truly areligious state to a religious one). You would do well to study the history of the rise of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism (especially in China), Mormonism, etc. It's all culture clash, violence, distrust etc. It takes generations for things to normalize, and only after the deaths of countless people caught in between.

            Your attitude of 'look at religion now' is completely meaningless and obtuse through the lens of history. Look at how religion comes to be, from that you'll actually learn something.

            In Memoriam: Hypatia of Alexandria
        • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

          Religions generally use fear to control.

          Yes, evil men who don't care about or even believe in God do in fact use religion for their own selfish ends. It's a sad fact of life.

          Not all religions are like that. Hindus, Bhuddists, and most Christianity isn't. But beware of people like Pat Robertson. Never trust a preacher who wears a suit and tie.

          Whether or not you believe in God, what Jesus taught made a lot of sense. If everyone acted like he taught, the world would be a wonderful place. Damned hard to do thou

      • by multimediavt ( 965608 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:35PM (#43563329)

        But to have a sense of purpose in a meaningless world, it needs to be packaged properly. Religion is just a very effective and time-tested vessel for purpose.

        Umm, try enslavement, not purpose. Religion is a distraction from reality used to get power over people. TFA on the other hand is talking about belief in God, which does not necessarily include organized religious affiliation, i.e., religion. Belief in God gives people a happy, fuzzy feeling that there's a giant spaghetti monster (or whatever you believe) hovering high above them their whole life watching out for them and making sure good things and not bad happen to them. That's crazy!

      • But to have a sense of purpose in a meaningless world, it needs to be packaged properly. Religion is just a very effective and time-tested vessel for purpose.

        The world may be meaningless for you, but that does not mean objectively that it is. There are plenty of people that get meaning and purpose not only from religion. Some have a selfish purpose, such as making lots of money, no matter who they hurt in the process. There are some who make it their purpose to be helpful and loving to those around them.

    • by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:21PM (#43563251)

      Neither. It's just the basis of cognitive therapy. You replace the thoughts that lead to X (X = depression in this case) with other thoughts. Religion is just convenient because it doesn't require any extra work for the therapist - it just requires you read religious texts instead of the therapist figuring out what will work best for the individual.

      • by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @08:48PM (#43563803)

        Based on the abstract [jad-journal.com] and the article, that doesn't appear to be what is going on - that is use of religion as cognitive therapy. Belief in God appears to be the independent variable in the study. The subjects in the study that receive treatment and believe in God have better outcomes. Belief in God and religion aren't the treatment but effect the outcome.

        • by aztektum ( 170569 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @11:18PM (#43564539)

          Typically, "God" is packaged along with afterlife, another chance, eternal existence, etc. Would belief in God then create an implied belief in those other things?

          The biggest religions are the ones that offer these things only so long as you follow the rules of their God. If people are told to believe in God without a reason, would this study come to the same conclusion?

  • Beliefs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zubieta ( 2653061 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:06PM (#43563131)
    Makes sense, at least in my point of view. I'm a atheist, and I have got into depressions regarding the meaning of life, the un/fairness behind it, a lot of trascendental questions, also a fear of death, which people that believes in a god, with fervor, may not feel, since they may believe there is a life after death, there is a meaning behind everything, that there is a god that loves you, etc.
    • by jamesh ( 87723 )

      Makes sense, at least in my point of view. I'm a atheist, and I have got into depressions regarding the meaning of life, the un/fairness behind it, a lot of trascendental questions, also a fear of death, which people that believes in a god, with fervor, may not feel, since they may believe there is a life after death, there is a meaning behind everything, that there is a god that loves you, etc.

      I'm an athiest too - but I would find the concept of a God who lets bad things happen to good people just to serve his mysterious higher purpose even more depressing than the idea that nothing happens for a reason.

  • Thus proving... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Joe U ( 443617 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:08PM (#43563153) Homepage Journal

    That ignorance is bliss.

    • Or that christian people are just a bunch of hypercondriacs yearning to suffer clogging up all of our hospitals with fake ailments, or self-induced ailments, because they know they're sinners and they believe they deserve whatever disease their mind/body is conjuring up for them. In other words, religion could just be triggering a reverse-placebo effect which lasts a minimum of 40 days, and then suddenly magically disappears as if it was never even there in the first place.

  • Headline FAIL. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:09PM (#43563169)

    The key thing missing in the headline: "In treatment of depression".

    Other things missing: "in one isolated study", "in an article summarizing the study, without any direct link to the research", and of course, "a highly biased interpretation meant to generate views based on obvious controversy."

    Keep in mind, this may also be highly cultural, as many nations have much larger percentage non-believing populations, but not worse depression or suicide rates that correlate.

    Ryan Fenton

  • by jtownatpunk.net ( 245670 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:10PM (#43563185)

    It's God's will. God is testing me. It's beyond my control. There's also the "God gives me strength" angle.

    I suppose it's easier to overcome mental health problems if one believes that they bear no responsibility for their troubles and that an infinitely powerful being will make everything okay if they just believe. A metaphysical placebo.

    It's a bit rougher if you've only got yourself to blame for your shortcomings and believe the strength to overcome must come from within.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:11PM (#43563187)

    Then you can be tricked into believing you can be helped by the doctor. A weak mind is easily manipulated. Both for good and evil.

  • by Karl Cocknozzle ( 514413 ) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .elzzonkcock.> on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:13PM (#43563201) Homepage

    Does it also correlate with more than usual incidences of requiring help for such maladies?

  • by Xeoz ( 1648225 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:13PM (#43563209)
    Having an invisible friend that you know not only believes in you but genuinely loves you is a powerful thing. I'd be very interested to know if people with human friends who love and believe in them enjoy the similar success.
  • by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:17PM (#43563229)
    Reality as it's given to us by society and interpreted through rationality IS depressing. The secret is - you don't stop there, you keep going. deeper.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "That a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than a drunk man being happier than a sober one."

  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:24PM (#43563271)

    It's a same we can't moderate the article as flamebait.

  • It would give you the sense that no matter what someone does care and all the other wonderful feelings that come with a belief system. There is supposedly a religious area of the brain, so I can believe that it may help.

    There is nothing at all wrong with that. Most people have some sort of belief system, be it religious or another spiritual sense.

    The dangerous part is when the church or governing body of that belief system is corrupt and they tell you that you must believe their word and that is it. E
  • Enjoy each day (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dorianny ( 1847922 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:27PM (#43563289) Journal
    People are so worried about how long they have to live and what will happen to them after death that they forget to enjoy the life they have. A close relative was diagnosed with low grade lymphoma a few months ago (manageable but unfortunately uncurable ) and she wander why I took such a devastating diagnosis to open her eye to the happiness of everyday life. "I don’t take life for granted anymore. I learned to live in the moment. I also realized that when I live in the present moment, life is wonderful" she said to me. It sounded like a frigging cliche but she seems happier than she has ever been. Perhaps we are just wired to constantly worry and its only when faced with the prospect of death that we realize how futile an effort it is.
  • I guess it would depend on whether or not you see belief in God as an act of lunacy.
  • If a depressed person feels that "god" has a purpose for them, they're more likely to power through until things get better. Faith in purpose is really what was just correlated...

  • You want long-term outcomes, try believing in yourself.
  • People who are delusional and believe that something else is responsible for their behavior and condition and thus can fix them have a "positive mental health outcome"? Really?
  • by Edis Krad ( 1003934 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @07:57PM (#43563469)
    There is a nice article in wikipedia [wikipedia.org]
    The point being, if the patient believes it works, sometimes it does.
  • by __aaqvdr516 ( 975138 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @08:03PM (#43563511)

    Another way to look at their results is that there needs to be an improvement in the psychological treatment of atheists because there may be some bias in the treatment that tends to push people to appeal to the spiritual. Maybe a bit like AA.

    There is a distinct lack of research in the area of atheist vs theist rates of psychological problems. Of the available research, here is one such study that suggests that atheists are less likely to suffer from depression:
    http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/buggle_20_4.html [secularhumanism.org]

    I haven't done the digging yet but the submitted article smells like the Templeton Foundation may have had an influence.

  • by Freddybear ( 1805256 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @08:08PM (#43563551)

    Because I can totally see belief in certain gods being correlated with catastrophically negative outcomes.

    • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @10:31PM (#43564349)

      That's actually an awesome question.

      If most religions believe only one religion is right and there is only one "real" god, then only only followers of one particular religion should see a benefit. If other religions see the same benefit, then doesn't that sort of disprove any relation to supposed divinity? And if you rationalize it by saying "well, it's not that god is making you better, it's just that simply believing helps", then doesn't that even further invalidate the entire concept?

  • by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @09:29PM (#43564031)

    The chief researcher's curriculum vitae: http://www.spiritualityandhealth.duke.edu/resources/pdfs/David%20Rosmarin.pdf [duke.edu] (search the doc for "spiritual")

    Not to say that he can't be right, but he has been pursuing this idea of "religious people are happier/mentally healthier" for several years. He has a lot invested and a lot of publications on the matter. It doesn't give the impression of a researcher free of bias.

    I'd be interested in knowing what they controlled for when calculating the strength of the effect they found. Did they account for age, family history, income, race, sex and social involvement?

  • by srobert ( 4099 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @09:47PM (#43564147)

    I wonder what a belief in J.R. Bob Dobbs does for one's mental health.

  • by Marrow ( 195242 ) on Friday April 26, 2013 @10:32PM (#43564353)

    Too little, and you are a depressed atheist. Too much and you have sudden uncontrollable violent urges to blow up Olympic events and fly planes into buildings.
    And what about the truly mentally ill people who fixate that god is telling them to drown their children? Who else would have the authority in their minds to demand that?
    I am not saying the belief in God is pernicious. But it seems like there is a certain toxic baggage that has accumulated along with organized religion that keeps people dying a lot.

  • by Targon ( 17348 ) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @07:41AM (#43566421)

    The real issue is that those who believe in a God that watches over them also tend to feel that their lives are being guided, and they PREFER to feel that someone is guiding/controlling/watching over them. Now, a big part of depression comes from feeling powerless about your situation in life, so from that point of view, feeling like SOMETHING is looking out for you is a positive thing, no matter what or who it may be. The solution to treating depression then, is to provide a system(can be peer based, not government) where people who are depressed have others who may be able to help them, or watch out for them to give support. What has happened with modern society is that there is a notable lack of community in most places, and that lack of community leads to depression, and a feeling of isolation. Picture if you had no friends living near you, and the only thing you do is go to a bar and drink by yourself, where you see others who have connections or are making connections. Do that for years, and depression is sure to set in. Neighbors would help, but if society makes it so people are not interested in being connected to your neighbors, that leads to depression.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken