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When is Faith Enough? The Effects of Religious Involvement on Depression

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Although most scholars find that religious involvement is negatively related to depression, questions still remain regarding how individuals benefit from such involvement and evidence from nationally representative samples is rare. In this paper, I expand upon previous research by considering three types of general religious involvement (attendance at religious services, religious salience, and spiritual help-seeking) and three types of effects (linear, curvilinear, and stress-buffering). Using Americans' Changing Lives (House 1989)—a large, nationally representative, and longitudinal data set—I find a U-shaped effect of religious salience on depression, no significant independent effect of service attendance, and a positive effect of spiritual help-seeking. I also find that spiritual help-seeking and religious salience exhibit significant stress-buffering effects, but that these occur only when individuals experience multiple negative life events, and not when they experience any single type of discrete event. The theoretical implications of these effects are discussed, both as they contribute to research on the life stress paradigm and research on the psychology of religion.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, 3718 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104–6299.

Publication date: 2001-09-01

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