Being Religiously Active Cuts Anxiety in Women

How active you are religiously from childhood to adulthood could affect your mental health.

A new study from Temple University finds women who stopped being religiously active were more than three times more likely to have generalized anxiety and alcohol abuse/dependence than those who had always been active.

But the study shows men who stopped being religiously active were less likely to have major depression compared to men who had always been active. Researchers have a possible explanation for the gender differences.

“Women are simply more integrated into the social networks of their religious communities,” co-author Joanna Maselko, Sc.D., Temple University, was quoted as saying. “When they stop attending religious services, they lose access to that network and all its potential benefits. Men may not be as integrated into the religious community in the first place and so may not suffer the negative consequences of leaving.”

Researchers looked at 718 adults – most of them had changed their levels of religious activity between childhood and adulthood.

Results show 39-percent of them women had always been religiously active; 51-percent had not been active since childhood. About seven-percent of those who had always been active qualified as having generalized anxiety disorder compared to 21-percent of women who had stopped being religiously active.

Maselko adds your religious beliefs and how active you are in religion can affect your health in similar ways as social networks do.

SOURCE: Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, published online
Jan. 1, 2008

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