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Religious believers more depressed than atheists: study

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A new study concluded "there was no evidence of religion acting as a buffer to prevent depression after a serious life event." (AP Photo)

Even if people's faith in religion makes them feel good right down to their souls, they are still more likely than an atheist to get depressed, according to a new study.

The study, published in the October issue of Psychological Medicine but online now, followed more than 8,000 people in rural and urban areas in seven countries for one year. During the research, they were each examined at six- and 12-month intervals.

In those time frames, 10.3 per cent of religious participants became depressed, compared with 7.0 per cent for atheists and 10.5 per cent for those with a "spiritual understanding of life," the study found.

The results also varied between country and religion. For example, spiritual participants from the U.K. were found to be more than three times more likely to be depressed than their secular counterparts.

Those who practised varying religions showed the highest rate of depression - 11.5 per cent - followed by Protestants at 10.9 per cent, those without a specific religion at 10.8 per cent, and Catholics at 9.8 per cent.

Along with the U.K., residents of Spain, Estonia, Portugal, Chile and the Netherlands were involved in the study, which is called "Spiritual and religious beliefs as risk factors for the onset of major depression: an international cohort study."

The researchers concluded "these results do not support the notion that religious and spiritual life views enhance psychological well-being. There was no evidence of religion acting as a buffer to prevent depression after a serious life event."

Despite only select countries being included in this new research, past studies have found the parts of the U.S. with the highest religious rates also have the highest depression rates, according to Guardian Express.

Earlier this year, however, the U.S.-based National Center for Biotechnology Information released a study done at the University of Saskatchewan that found a 22 per cent lower risk of depression for monthly church attendees.

That data came from the Canadian National Population Health Survey between 1994 and 2008. Most of the monthly churchgoers in that study were also "older, female, and married," the study noted.

What do you think of the recent study? Do you feel happier with or without religion or a sense of spirituality in your life?

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