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National Trends in Prayer Use as a Coping Mechanism for Depression: Changes from 2002 to 2007

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To analyze national trends in the use of prayer among individuals with depression, we adopted a cross-sectional design with data from the adult Alternative Medicine supplement of the National Health Interview Survey 2002 and 2007. Prayer use and depression were combined into 4 categories: (a) prayed in the past 12 months and depressed; (b) prayed in the past 12 months and not depressed; (c) never prayed but depressed; and (d) never prayed and not depressed. Chi-square tests and multinomial logistic regressions were performed to analyze group differences. All analyses were adjusted for the complex sample design and conducted in SAS-callable SUDAAN. Use of prayer for depression was steady at 6.9 % across time; however, general prayer increased significantly between 2002 and 2007 (40.2 vs. 45.7). Women, aged 50–64, unmarried, with high school education were more likely to use prayer while depressed compared to those who were neither depressed nor prayed. Lifestyle behaviors (e.g. alcohol, smoking, exercise) were also associated with prayer use and depression. Prayer use for depression remained steady with unique relationships occurring among those who smoke, use alcohol, and have irregular exercise. Individuals’ use of prayer as a potential complementary treatment for depression suggests that it is critical for mental and physical health treatment providers to be aware of the use of prayer as a coping resource.

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This research was partially supported by a faculty development grant at the University of Massachusetts Medical School to Amy Wachholtz. Usha Sambamthoori was partially supported for infrastructure by Collaborative Health Outcomes Research of Therapies and Services Grant 1 P20 HS 015390-02.

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Correspondence to Amy B. Wachholtz.

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Wachholtz, A.B., Sambamthoori, U. National Trends in Prayer Use as a Coping Mechanism for Depression: Changes from 2002 to 2007. J Relig Health 52, 1356–1368 (2013).

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