Attendance at mass 'beats depression'  

22 July 2016

DEMOTIX

Glee: a woman waits in the security-check queue as crowds await the arrival of Pope Francis in Central Park, New York, last September

Glee: a woman waits in the security-check queue as crowds await the arrival of Pope Francis in Central Park, New York, last September

WOMEN who attend church regularly are much less likely to take their own life, a study published last month has suggested.

A group of almost 90,000 women in the United States were followed by researchers for 14 years; of them 36,000 attended a church service at least once a week. Compared with those who never went to church, the regular churchgoing women were five times less likely to kill themselves, the academics found.

The study, published last month in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, also found that what kind of church the women attended was a relevant factor.

Although regular churchgoing Protestants took their own lives much less than non-churchgoers, the women who were regular attenders at Roman Catholic churches were seven times less likely to take their own life than even the Protestants. Among the 6999 Roman Catholics who said that they attended mass more than once a week, there were no cases of suicide.

Those who identified as RCs, but never attended church, however, were just as likely to take their own life as those who said they were not religious at all.

The authors of the study suggested that religion acted as a bulwark against loneliness and isolation, which are often linked to depression and suicidal thoughts. “Religion and spirituality may be an underappreciated resource that psychiatrists and clinicians could explore with their patients, as appropriate,” the researchers wrote.

“Our results do not imply that health-care providers should prescribe attendance at religious services. However, for patients who are already religious, service attendance might be encouraged as a form of meaningful social participation.”

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