Religion and Mental Health Among Israeli Jews: Findings from the SHARE-Israel Study

Abstract

This study investigates the impact of religiousness on mental health indicators in a population sample of Israeli Jews aged 50 or older. Data are from the Israel sample of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE-Israel), collected from 2005 to 2006. Of the 1,287 Jewish respondents, 473 (36.8 %) were native-born Israelis and 814 (63.2 %) were diaspora-born. Religious measures included past-month synagogue activities, current prayer, and having received a religious education. Mental health outcomes included single-item measures of lifetime depression and life satisfaction, along with the CES-D and EURO-D depression scales, the CASP-12 quality of life scale, and the LOT-R optimism scale. Participation in synagogue activities was found to be significantly associated with less depression, better quality of life, and more optimism, even after adjusting for effects of the other religious measures, for sociodemographic covariates, for the possibly confounding effect of age-related activity limitation, and for nativity. Findings for prayer were less consistent, including inverse associations with mental health, perhaps reflecting prayer’s use as a coping response. Finally, religious education was associated with greater optimism. These results underscore a modest contribution of religious participation to well-being among middle-aged and older adults, extending this research to the Israeli and Jewish populations.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Achdut, L., & Litwin, H. (Eds.). (March, 2008). The 50+ cohort: First results from SHARE-Israel: Data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe [Special issue]. Social Security: Journal of Welfare and Social Security Studies, 76.

  2. Amit, K. (2010). Determinants of life satisfaction among immigrants from Western countries and from the FSU in Israel. Social Indicators Research, 96, 515–534.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Amit, K., & Litwin, H. (2010). The subjective well-being of immigrants aged 50 and older in Israel. Social Indicators Research, 98, 89–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Andersson, G. (1996). The benefits of optimism: A meta-analytic review of the Life Orientation Test. Personal and Individual Differences, 21, 719–725.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Anson, O., Antonovsky, A., & Sagy, S. (1990). Religiosity and well-being among retirees: A question of causality. Behavior, Health, and Aging, 1, 85–97.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Anson, O., Levenson, A., Maoz, B., & Bonneh, D. Y. (1991). Religious community, individual religiosity, and health: A tale of two kibbutzim. Sociology, 25, 119–132.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Ayalon, L., Heinik, J., & Litwin, H. (2010). Population group differences in cognitive functioning in a national sample of Israelis 50 years and older. Research on Aging, 32, 304–322.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Börsch-Supan, A., Hank, K., & Jürges, H. (2005). A new comprehensive and international view on ageing: Introducing the “Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe.” European Journal of Ageing, 2, 245–253.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Castro-Costa, E., Dewey, M., Stewart, R., Banerjee, S., Huppert, F., Mendonca-Lima, C., et al. (2007). Prevalence of depressive symptoms and syndromes in later life in ten European countries. British Journal of Psychiatry, 191, 393–401.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Castro-Costa, E., Dewey, M., Stewart, R., Banerjee, S., Huppert, F., Mendonca-Lima, C., et al. (2008). Ascertaining late-life depressive symptoms in Europe: An evaluation of the survey version of the EURO-D scale in 10 nations. The SHARE project. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 17, 12–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Higgs, P., Hyde, M., Wiggins, R., & Blane, D. (2003). Researching quality of life in early old age: The importance of the sociological dimension. Social Policy and Administration, 37, 239–252.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Hyde, M., Wiggin, R. D., Higgs, P., & Blane, D. B. (2003). A measure of quality of life in early old age: The theory, development and properties of a needs satisfaction model (CASP-19). Aging and Mental Health, 7, 186–194.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Kark, J. D., Carmel, S., Sinnreich, R., Goldberger, N., & Friedlander, Y. (1996). Psychosocial factors among members of religious and secular kibbutzim. Israel Journal of Medical Sciences, 32, 185–194.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Koenig, H. G., King, D. E., & Carson, V. B. (2012). Handbook of Religion and Health (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Krause, N. M. (2008). Aging in the Church: How social relationships affect health. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Landau, S. F., Beit-Hallahmi, B., & Levy, S. (1998). The personal and the political: Israelis’ perception of well-being in times of war and peace. Social Indicators Research, 44, 329–365.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Levav, I., Kohn, R., & Billig, M. (2008). The protective effect of religiosity under terrorism. Psychiatry, 71, 46–58.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Levin, J. (2010). Religion and mental health: Theory and research. International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 7, 102–115.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Levin, J. (2011a). Health impact of Jewish religious observance in the USA: Findings from the 2000–01 National Jewish Population Survey. Journal of Religion and Health, 50, 852–868.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Levin, J. (2011b). Religion and positive well-being among Israeli and diaspora Jews: Findings from the World Values Survey. Mental Health, Religion and Culture (online prepublication).

  22. Levin, J. (2011c). Religion and psychological well-being and distress in Israeli Jews: Findings from the Gallup World Poll. Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences, 48, 252–261.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Levin, J. S., & Chatters, L. M. (1998). Research on religion and mental health: An overview of empirical findings and theoretical issues. In H. G. Koenig (Ed.), Handbook of Religion and Mental Health (pp. 33–50). San Diego: Academic Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  24. Levin, J. S., & Taylor, R. J. (1998). Panel analyses of religious involvement and well-being in African Americans: Contemporaneous vs. longitudinal effects. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37, 695–709.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Litwin, H. (2009). Understanding aging in a Middle Eastern context: The SHARE-Israel Survey of persons aged 50 and older. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 24, 49–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Litwin, H., & Sapir, E. V. (2008). Methodology: The structure and content of the SHARE-Israel Survey. In H. Litwin (Ed.), The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE)-Israel, 2005–2006. ICPSR 22160 Codebook. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Lomsky-Feder, E., & Rapoport, T. (2001). Homecoming, immigration, and the national ethos: Russian-Jewish homecomers reading Zionism. Anthropological Quarterly, 74, 1–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Mirsky, J. (2009). The epidemiology of mental health problems among immigrants in Israel. In I. Levav (Ed.), Psychiatric and behavioral disorders in Israel: From epidemiology to mental health action (pp. 88–103). Jerusalem: Geffen Publishing House.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Pargament, K. I. (1997). The psychology of religion and coping: Theory, research, practice. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Pirutinsky, S., Rosmarin, D. H., Pargament, K. I., & Midlarsky, E. (2011). Does negative religious coping accompany, precede, or follow depression among Orthodox Jews? Journal of Affective Disorders, 132, 401–405.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Ponizovsky, A., Ginath, Y., Durst, R., Wondimeneh, B., Safro, S., Minuchin-Itzigson, S., et al. (1998). Psychological distress among Ethiopian and Russian Jewish immigrants to Israel: A cross-cultural study. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 44, 35–45.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Prince, M. J., Reischies, F., Beekman, A. T. F., Fuhrer, R., Jonker, C., Kivela, S.-L., et al. (1999). Development of the EURO-D scale—a European Union initiative to compare symptoms of depression in 14 European centres. British Journal of Psychiatry, 174, 330–338.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D Scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Roll, A., & Litwin, H. (2010). Intergenerational financial transfers and mental health: An analysis using SHARE-Israel data. Aging and Mental Health, 14, 203–210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Rosmarin, D. H., Krumrei, E. J., & Andersson, G. (2009a). Religion as a predictor of psychological distress in two religious communities. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 38, 54–64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Rosmarin, D. H., Krumrei, E. J., & Pargament, K. I. (2010). Do gratitude and spirituality predict psychological distress? International Journal of Existential Psychology & Psychotherapy, 3(1), 1–5.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Rosmarin, D. H., Pargament, K. I., & Flannelly, K. J. (2009b). Do spiritual struggles predict poorer physical/mental health among Jews? International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 19, 244–258.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Rosmarin, D. H., Pargament, K. I., & Mahoney, A. (2009c). The role of religiousness in anxiety, depression and happiness in a Jewish community sample: A preliminary investigation. Mental Health Religion & Culture, 12, 97–113.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Rosmarin, D. H., Pirutinsky, S., Cohen, A. B., Galler, Y., & Krumrei, E. J. (2011). Grateful to God or just plain grateful?: A comparison of religious and general gratitude. Journal of Positive Psychology, 6, 389–396.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Rosmarin, D. H., Pirutinsky, S., Pargament, K. I., & Krumrei, E. J. (2009d). Are religious beliefs relevant to mental health among Jews? Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 1, 180–190.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Shkolnik, T., Weiner, C., Malik, L., & Festinger, Y. (2001). The effect of Jewish religiosity of elderly Israelis on their life satisfaction, health, function and activity. Journal of Cross Cultural Gerontology, 16, 201–219.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Shmotkin, D. (1990). Subjective well-being as a function of age and gender: A multivariate look for differentiated trends. Social Indicators Research, 23, 201–230.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Shmotkin, D., & Litwin, H. (2009). Cumulative adversity and depressive symptoms among older adults in Israel: The differential roles of self-oriented versus other-oriented events of potential trauma. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 44, 989–997.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Shmueli, A. (2006). Health and religiosity among Israeli Jews. European Journal of Public Health, 17, 104–111.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Smith, T. B., McCullough, M. E., & Poll, J. (2003). Religiousness and depression: Evidence for a main effect and the moderating influence of stressful life events. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 614–636.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Srole, L., & Langner, T. (1962). Religious origin. In L. Srole, T. S. Langner, S. T. Michael, M. K. Opler, & T. A. C. Rennie, Mental health in the metropolis: The Midtown Manhattan Study (pp. 300–324). New York: McGraw-Hill.

  47. Summerlin, F. A. (Comp.). (1980). Religion and Mental Health: A Bibliography. DHHS Pub. No. (ADM) 80-964. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

  48. Vilchinsky, N., & Kravetz, S. (2005). How are religious belief and behavior good for you?: An investigation of mediators relating religion to mental health in a sample of Israeli Jewish students. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 44, 459–471.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Williams, D. R., Larson, D. B., Buckler, R. E., Heckmann, R. C., & Pyle, C. M. (1991). Religion and psychological distress in a community sample. Social Science and Medicine, 32, 1257–1262.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jeff Levin.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Levin, J. Religion and Mental Health Among Israeli Jews: Findings from the SHARE-Israel Study. Soc Indic Res 113, 769–784 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-012-0113-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Religion
  • Mental health
  • Depression
  • Israel
  • Judaism