The Connections Betweens Our Beliefs and Our Overall Health
In a nutshell, being religious is strongly associated with better overall mental health and well-being. The devoutly religious have fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression in addition to having a better ability to cope with stressors. A 2005 study on adults in their 60s and 70s in the U.S. found that religious beliefs buffered against depression associated with poor physical health. And for those of you thinking, “well sure, people who are religious tend to enjoy the benefits of social support by attending weekly services at various houses of worship,” the buffering effects of religion was present even after controlling for social support. In a 2013 study, researchers found that patients who were being treated for depression and self-harm responded better to treatment if they believed in God. Of course, these results do not show causality.
Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center, found that more religious people had fewer depressive symptoms after conducting a meta-analysis of 93 studies between 1872 and 2010 on religion and health. According to Koenig, "People who are more involved in religious practices and who are more religiously committed seem to cope better with stress. One of the reasons is because [religion] gives people a sense of purpose and meaning in life, and that helps them to make sense of negative things that happen to them."
This summer’s landmark Supreme Court 5–4 decision that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples (re: Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses) has been the largest victory to date for LGBTQ equality. And, there has been, as we all knew there would be, expected push back in certain pockets of the U.S. Front and center in the media, Rowan County Courthouse Clerk Kim Davis continues to keep the definition of marriage a lively debate. As I’m sure you know by now, Davis cited God’s Law as her reasoning for refusing to follow the U.S. Supreme Court order, “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience.”
As of this morning Davis returns to work and removes her name and authority from the marriage licenses, in the hopes that the whole world will know where she stands. Her deputy clerks will continue to issue “unauthorized marriage licenses pursuant to a federal court order.” This apparent compromise suggests that Davis does not have to violate her beliefs, and that Rowan County Courthouse will be able to function properly under current federal law. By now you’ve also no doubt seen Planting Peace’s billboard illustrating one of many biblical definitions of marriage that have been culturally abandoned in the U.S. So how do religious and legal definitions of marriage play out in present day America?
Since this is the “maiden voyage” post on my blog, I’ll keep it short and simple. I was listening to the Diane Rehm show on my way home from a session and the topic of interfaith marriages came up. A stand out moment for me was learning that 27% of all marriages today in the U.S. are considered “interfaith”. That number goes to up to more than a third if you include interdenominational Protestant faiths (ex: Episcopalian married to a Presbyterian). How does growing up as a child raised by parents of two different faiths impact one’s worldview? Which faith do the parents bring their children up in? Didn’t I say this first post would be short?
Listen to the entire conversation
Did you grow up in an interfaith household? What were your experiences like?
A Jewish-Muslim wedding takes place in May 2013.http://www.flickr.com/photos/zlatko/9019985769/
Robin S. Smith, MS, LCMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in clinical practice in Bethesda MD, and specializes in relationship issues for couples, families, and individuals, for improved quality of life. His clinical specialties include: transition to parenthood for new and expecting parents, infidelity, sex and intimacy issues, premarital counseling, and trauma. Robin has given talks to various groups including hospital administrators, graduate students, therapists, and child birth educators. He is the primary contributor to Your Couples Therapist Blog.
Robin S. Smith is a psychotherapist practicing in Bethesda, MD. Robin created The Couple and Family Clinic Blog to provide useful articles on issues related to mental health as well as articles on local, national, and international news stories. Learn more about Robin on the About Page.