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Religious service attendance and spiritual well-being are differentially associated with risk of major depression

  • J. Maselko (a1), S. E. Gilman (a2) and S. Buka (a3)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 06 October 2008

The complex relationships between religiosity, spirituality and the risk of DSM-IV depression are not well understood.


We investigated the independent influence of religious service attendance and two dimensions of spiritual well-being (religious and existential) on the lifetime risk of major depression. Data came from the New England Family Study (NEFS) cohort (n=918, mean age=39 years). Depression according to DSM-IV criteria was ascertained using structured diagnostic interviews. Odds ratios (ORs) for the associations between high, medium and low tertiles of spiritual well-being and for religious service attendance and the lifetime risk of depression were estimated using multiple logistic regression.


Religious service attendance was associated with 30% lower odds of depression. In addition, individuals in the top tertile of existential well-being had a 70% lower odds of depression compared to individuals in the bottom tertile. Contrary to our original hypotheses, however, higher levels of religious well-being were associated with 1.5 times higher odds of depression.


Religious and existential well-being may be differentially associated with likelihood of depression. Given the complex interactions between religiosity and spirituality dimensions in relation to risk of major depression, the reliance on a single domain measure of religiosity or spirituality (e.g. religious service attendance) in research or clinical settings is discouraged.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: J. Maselko, Sc.D., Temple University, 1700 N. Broad St, Rm 304, Philadelphia, PA 19130, USA. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
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