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Braz J Psychiatr. 2006 Sep;28(3):242-50. Epub 2006 Aug 15.

Religiousness and mental health: a review.

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Department of Psychiatry, Center for the Study of Religious and Spiritual Problems, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.



The relationship between religiosity and mental health has been a perennial source of controversy. This paper reviews the scientific evidence available for the relationship between religion and mental health.


The authors present the main studies and conclusions of a larger systematic review of 850 studies on the religion-mental health relationship published during the 20th Century identified through several databases. The present paper also includes an update on the papers published since 2000, including researches performed in Brazil and a brief historical and methodological background.


The majority of well-conducted studies found that higher levels of religious involvement are positively associated with indicators of psychological well-being (life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale) and with less depression, suicidal thoughts and behavior, drug/alcohol use/abuse. Usually the positive impact of religious involvement on mental health is more robust among people under stressful circumstances (the elderly, and those with disability and medical illness). Theoretical pathways of the religiousness-mental health connection and clinical implications of these findings are also discussed.


There is evidence that religious involvement is usually associated with better mental health. We need to improve our understanding of the mediating factors of this association and its use in clinical practice.

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