Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on April 26, 2013
A new study suggests belief in God may significantly improve the outcome of those receiving short-term treatment for psychiatric illness.
Researchers followed patients receiving care from a hospital-based behavioral health program to investigate the relationship between patients’ level of belief in God, expectations for treatment and actual treatment outcomes.
In the study, published in the current issue of Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers comment 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.
“Belief was associated with not only improved psychological well-being, but decreases in depression and intention to self-harm,” says David H. Rosmarin, Ph.D., an instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
The study looked at 159 patients, recruited over a one-year period. Each participant was asked to gauge their belief in God as well as their expectations for treatment outcome and emotion regulation, each on a five-point scale.
Levels of depression, well-being, and self-harm were assessed at the beginning and end of their treatment program.
Of the patients sampled, more than 30 percent claimed no specific religious affiliation yet still saw the same benefits in treatment if their belief in a higher power was rated as moderately or very high.
Patients with “no” or only “slight” belief in God were twice as likely not to respond to treatment as patients with higher levels of belief.
Investigators believe the study demonstrates that a belief in God is associated with improved treatment outcomes in psychiatric care.
“More centrally, our results suggest that belief in the credibility of psychiatric treatment and increased expectations to gain from treatment might be mechanisms by which belief in God can impact treatment outcomes.”
Investigators hope that the study will lead to additional investigation on the clinical implication of spirtual life as more than 90 percent of the U.S. population hold religious beliefs.
Source: McLean Hospital