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J Affect Disord. 2010 Jan;120(1-3):149-57. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2009.04.029.

A prospective study of religion/spirituality and depressive symptoms among adolescent psychiatric patients.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA.



Previous research has uncovered relationships between religion/spirituality and depressive disorders. Proposed mechanisms through which religion may impact depression include decreased substance use and enhanced social support. Little investigation of these topics has occurred with adolescent psychiatric patients, among whom depression, substance use, and social dysfunction are common.


145 subjects, aged 12-18, from two psychiatric outpatient clinics completed the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II), the Fetzer multidimensional survey of religion/spirituality, and inventories of substance abuse and perceived social support. Measures were completed again six months later. Longitudinal and cross-sectional relationships between depression and religion were examined, controlling for substance abuse and social support.


Of thirteen religious/spiritual characteristics assessed, nine showed strong cross-sectional relationships to BDI-II score. When perceived social support and substance abuse were controlled for, forgiveness, negative religious support, loss of faith, and negative religious coping retained significant relationships to BDI-II. In longitudinal analyses, loss of faith predicted less improvement in depression scores over 6 months, controlling for depression at study entry.


Self-report data, clinical sample.


Several aspects of religiousness/spirituality appear to relate cross-sectionally to depressive symptoms in adolescent psychiatric patients. Findings suggest that perceived social support and substance abuse account for some of these correlations but do not explain relationships to negative religious coping, loss of faith, or forgiveness. Endorsing a loss of faith may be a marker of poor prognosis among depressed youth.

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