New Study Finds Connection Between Depression and LACK of Religion


Depression rates in the U.S. have been on the rise in recent decades with a 33 percent increase between 2013 to 2016. Many people point fingers at social media and the FOMO and culture of comparison that comes along with it as the source of increased rates of depression. However, a new study suggests that a lack of religion and spiritually is really to blame for the increase.

The study used brain imaging to observe individuals who were determined to be at risk for major depressive disorder based on their family history. The researchers then concluded that religious or spiritual beliefs may affect the brain on a microstructural level and that these structural differences made the individuals more resilient to depression.

Sure people tell you going to church is good, but what about it makes you more resilient when it comes to depression? The answer is two-fold.

First, religion gives individuals a sense of purpose. Researchers from the University of Gdansk in Poland have found that having a sense of purpose in one’s life significant factor that allows individuals to deal with depressive feelings.  

Second, religion gives individuals a sense of community and the opportunity to give back to others. Both of which are mechanisms that enable individuals to cope with depression.

Even if you yourself don’t suffer from depression, you probably know someone who does. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 6.7 percent of adults in the United States have experience with depression. Similarly, a 2016 study showed 11.3 percent of teenagers suffer from depressive episodes.

When you look at the statistics like that, it can be, well, depressing. But I think this new study is comforting because it’s nice to know that an outside source completely independent of the Church has recognized that there’s value in all the meetings and activities we go to.

That’s not to say you can’t be a Latter-day Saint and have depression, because of course, you can. Religion isn’t a cure-all for depression, but it can be one tool you use to combat it. 

If you or someone you know struggles with depression, use the tools available to you, including those The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made available. They have some great resources, including the video “Like a Broken Vessel” below.

To learn more about major depressive order and what you can do to help yourself or a loved one, visit the following resources.

Sydnee Gonzalez is an intern for She is studying new media at Brigham Young University. In her free time, she likes to travel and go Latin dancing.