MENTAL-health problems are as prevalent among those who define
themselves as religious as among those who are non-religious, a
study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry
Researchers at University College, London, analysed the findings
of interviews with 7403 adults in England. Thirty-five per cent of
those who responded said that they had a religious understanding of
life, defined as "the actual practice of a faith, e.g. going to a
temple, mosque, church, or synagogue", and 19 per cent defined
themselves as "spiritual" - they "do not follow a religion, but do
have spiritual beliefs or experiences". The remainder were neither
religious nor spiritual.
The researchers found "few substantial differences" in the
prevalence of mental disorder, or receipt of treatment, between
people with no religious or spiritual understanding and those who
were religious, except that there was less drug use and hazardous
drinking in the latter.
The Vicar of West Harrow, the Revd William Van Der Hart, who is
one of the directors of Mind and Soul, an organisation exploring
Christianity and mental health, said that the finding about the
prevalence of mental ill-health among those who defined themselves
as religious reflected his own experience.
"Many are determined to enter into the church or the mosque
because they are seeking support for their vulnerability; so it
would not surprise me that there is maybe a higher prevalence for
some mental-health disorders - particularly neurotic ones - in
While the church community provided "great comfort and support",
he said, this did not mean that there was "some kind of im-
penetrable shield provided for faithful followers of Jesus Christ,
that somehow they won't become unwell."