Believing in God can help treat depression

  • New research has found that people who believe in a higher power respond better to psychiatric treatment
  • Benefit is not confined to a specific religion

Rachel Reilly

12:23 EST, 25 April 2013


12:23 EST, 25 April 2013

A strong faith in a higher power has been shown to improve mental health

A strong faith in a higher power has been shown to improve mental health

Belief in God may improve treatment for those suffering with depression, says a new study.

Faith in a higher being has been found to significantly improve treatment for people suffering with a psychiatric illness, according to research carried out by McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Researchers followed 159 patients over the course of a year at the Behavioral Health Partial
Hospital program at McLean to investigate the relationship between a 
patient’s level of belief in God, expectations for treatment and actual
treatment outcomes.

Each participant was asked to gauge
their belief in God as well as their expectations for treatment outcome on a five-point scale.

Levels of depression, wellbeing, and self-harm were assessed at the beginning and end of their treatment program.

Researchers found that patients with ‘no’ or only ‘slight’
belief in God were twice as likely not to respond to treatment than
patients with higher levels of belief.

And more than 30
per cent of patients claiming no specific religious affiliation still saw the
same benefits in treatment if their belief in God was rated
as moderately or very high.

Researchers concluded that a belief in
God is associated with improved treatment outcomes in psychiatric care.

The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, said : ‘Our work suggests that people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without, regardless of their religious affiliation.

Belief was associated with not only improved psychological wellbeing, but a decrease in depression and intention to self-harm, explained David Rosmarin, McLean Hospital
clinician and instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard

He added: ‘I hope that this work will lead to larger studies and increased funding in order to help as many people as possible.’

Previous studies have highlighted the power of prayer on a person’s health.


Alone: Psychiatric disorders can be very isolating for the sufferer but a belief in God can help, say researchers

Research at San Francisco General Hospital monitored the effects of prayer on 393 cardiac patients.

Patients were asked if they wanted to take part in the trial but were not told whether they would be the subject of prayers.

Half were prayed for by a group of strangers who only had the patients’ names.

Those who were prayed for had fewer complications, fewer cases of pneumonia and needed less drug treatment.

They also improved more quickly and were able to leave hospital earlier.

A separate study, at Columbia University in New York, asked people in Australia, the U.S. and Canada to pray for named people undergoing IVF treatment in Korea.

Of the group in Korea, half had prayers said about them by the foreign strangers.

Among this half, the success rate for implantation of the embryo in the womb went up from 8 per cent to 16 per cent.

Cases of successful conception – where the foetus started developing – went up from 25 to 50 per cent.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.



25/4/2013 20:40

That is absolutely fascinating – both about the effects on depression and the effects when others pray for someone else (who is unaware that they are being prayed for).
Reminds me of a really fascinating programme I once saw on Quantum Physics where they revealed that atoms (or it may have been particles) behave differently when observed vs when they are not being observed. Kind of similar, no?


Godalming, United Kingdom,
25/4/2013 20:37

Excellent and very unusual to fInally a positive article about the benefits of belief. Dawkins and the athiest brigade would no doubt mock this evidence. It is a bit silly to suggest prayer as a treatment. Its not something that can be put in a pill.


Bristol, United Kingdom,
25/4/2013 20:37

That’s only because delusional people think there’s an afterlife. So if this life sucks, no matter there is one better.

Bob Smith

manchester, United Kingdom,
25/4/2013 20:35

Of course. Having a purpose filled life by knowing that God loves me definitely puts a smile on my face.


25/4/2013 20:06

Reality is my religion.


25/4/2013 19:59

Who paid for this research?


Stourbridge EUSSR, United Kingdom,
25/4/2013 19:20

I really believe that faith can really help people when there in a bad place or ill.


newport, United Kingdom,
25/4/2013 18:52

Yes but surely some of the most dangerous people in society act the way they do because they believe “God, Allah (etc) wants me to do it”

James Pickles

London, United Kingdom,
25/4/2013 18:35

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

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