Strong religious faith helps speed recovery from depression among elderly individuals. Older persons with an intrinsically motivated religious faith may indeed be more able to cope with changes in their physical health and living circumstances. Depressed patients with higher intrinsic (inner) religiosity scores had more rapid remissions. But the researchers found that religious activity had much less of an impact. They say that "neither church attendance nor private religious activities (such as prayer or Bible study) significantly predicted faster resolution of depression. They speculate that religious faith may provide such persons with a sense of hope that things will turn out all right regardless of their problems and, thus, foster greater motivation to achieve emotional recovery. Unlike church attendance, intrinsic religiosity is not limited by health problems, which may even increase it.
COMMENT: This is the first study to "scientifically" document that it is one's internal authentic relationship with God, not their external conformation to ritualistic principles such as going to church regularly, which will produce significant changes in their physical health.
American Journal of Psychiatry (1998;155:536-542)