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Religious involvement and depressive symptoms in primary care elders

  • D. A. KING (a1), J. M. LYNESS (a1), P. R. DUBERSTEIN (a1), H. HE (a2), X. M. TU (a1) (a2) and D. B. SEABURN (a1)...

Multiple lines of evidence indicate relationships between religious involvement and depression, although the specific nature of the relationships is yet to be clarified. Moreover, there appear to be no well controlled longitudinal studies to date examining this issue in primary care elders.


The authors assessed the linear and non-linear relationships between three commonly identified types of religious involvement and observer-rated depressive symptoms in 709 primary care elders assessed at baseline and 1-year follow-up.


Cross-sectional analyses revealed a curvilinear, U-shaped association between depressive symptoms and organizational religious activity, an inverse linear relationship of depressive symptoms with private religious involvement, and a positive relationship of depressive symptoms with intrinsic religiosity. Longitudinal analyses revealed a U-shaped association between depressive symptoms and private religious involvement, such that those reporting moderate levels of private religiosity at baseline evidenced lower levels of depressive symptoms at 1-year follow-up than those reporting either high or low levels of private religious activity.


The relationships between religious involvement and depression in primary care elders are complex and dependent on the type of religiosity measured. The authors found the strongest evidence for an association of non-organizational, private religious involvement and the severity of depressive symptoms, although further study is warranted using carefully controlled longitudinal designs that test for both linear and curvilinear relationships.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Deborah A. King, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, 300 Crittenden Blvd, Rochester, NY 14642, USA. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
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