Religious Engagement and Psychopathology over the Lifecourse
Our understanding of how religious engagement and spirituality impact an individual's risk of mental health problems over the life-course is still quite limited. This is despite the fact that 30-40% of Americans participate in weekly religious activities and almost half will develop a psychiatric illness over the course of their lifetime. While the number of research studies in this area has recently grown, the lack of longitudinal data has hindered the interpretation of most findings. This study examines in greater detail the relationship between religious engagement and psychopathology over the life-course by taking advantage of multiple waves of data on both religious engagement and psychopathology that cover several decades.
Using survival analysis techniques, we analyzed data from three follow-up studies of the New England Cohorts of the National Collaborate Perinatal Project (NCPP) to test the following hypotheses:
1. religious engagement will be protective against future risk and remission of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and anti social personality disorder;
2. a stable pattern of religious engagement over time will be associated with the lowest risk of illness;
3. religious engagement will buffer the association between childhood behavioral risk factors and risk of adult psychopathology; and
4. levels of religious service attendance and spiritual well-being will interact and together be uniquely be associated with psychopathology.
Drawing on prior research showing gender and race/ethnicity differences in both religiosity and psychopathology, we will also examine any evidence of these differences in the observed associations. This research overcomes the limitations of prior studies by (1) utilizing data both on religious activity and psychopathology from multiple time points, (2) using measures of psychopathology assessed according to DSM criteria, and (3) integrating data on both religious service attendance and spiritual well-being.