Original Paper

Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 53, Issue 5, pp 1285-1296

First online:

Beliefs About God and Mental Health Among American Adults

  • Nava R. SiltonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Marymount Manhattan College Email author 
  • , Kevin J. FlannellyAffiliated withCenter for Psychosocial Research
  • , Kathleen GalekAffiliated withThe Spears Research Institute, Healthcare Chaplaincy
  • , Christopher G. EllisonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, The University of Texas at San Antonio

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This study examines the association between beliefs about God and psychiatric symptoms in the context of Evolutionary Threat Assessment System Theory, using data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey of US Adults (N = 1,426). Three beliefs about God were tested separately in ordinary least squares regression models to predict five classes of psychiatric symptoms: general anxiety, social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion. Belief in a punitive God was positively associated with four psychiatric symptoms, while belief in a benevolent God was negatively associated with four psychiatric symptoms, controlling for demographic characteristics, religiousness, and strength of belief in God. Belief in a deistic God and one’s overall belief in God were not significantly related to any psychiatric symptoms.


Beliefs ETAS theory General anxiety Social anxiety Obsession–compulsion Paranoia Religion