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J Nerv Ment Dis. 2015 Aug;203(8):578-82. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000334.

Religiosity and Mental Health Service Utilization Among African-Americans.

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*Violence Institute of New Jersey, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ; †Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, UCLA School of Law; and ‡Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York State Psychiatric Institute.


African-Americans are approximately half as likely as their white counterparts to use professional mental health services. High levels of religiosity among African-Americans may lend to a greater reliance on religious counseling and coping when facing a mental health problem. This study investigates the relationship between three dimensions of religiosity and professional mental health service utilization among a large (n = 3570), nationally representative sample of African-American adults. African-American adults who reported high levels of organizational and subjective religiosity were less likely than those with lower levels of religiosity to use professional mental health services. This inverse relationship was generally consistent across individuals with and without a diagnosable Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, anxiety, mood, or substance use disorder. No association was found between nonorganizational religiosity and professional mental health service use. Seeking professional mental health care may clash with sociocultural religious norms and values among African-Americans. Strategic efforts should be made to engage African-American clergy and religious communities in the conceptualization and delivery of mental health services.

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