Religious activity and lifetime prevalence of psychiatric disorder
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There is growing evidence that current religious activity is associated with less psychological distress, yet research on clinical levels of psychopathology along with lifetime patterns of religious activity remains limited.
In this study, we used data on 718 participants from the Providence, RI, cohort of the National Collaborative Perinatal Project, to test for the association between lifetime patterns of religious service attendance frequency, subjective religiosity, and lifetime psychiatric diagnosis.
For women, but not men, a changing pattern of service attendance (having stopped or started attending services since childhood) was associated with increased lifetime rates of generalized anxiety, and marginally increased rates of alcohol abuse/dependence (OR for generalized anxiety: 2.71, 95% CI: 1.11–6.62; OR for alcohol abuse/dependence = 1.97, 95% CI: 0.92–4.20) compared to a stable pattern of continuous religious service attendance. Conversely, men who changed their frequency of religious service attendance were less likely to have ever met diagnostic criteria for major depression (OR = 0.50, 95% CI: 0.31–0.83) as compared to those who had always been religiously active. The rates of psychiatric illness among those who reported never attending religious services were not statistically different from those who either had always been religiously active or those who reported changing patterns of attendance.
These findings suggest that lifetime religious activity patterns are associated with psychiatric illnesses, with different patterns observed for men and women.