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Original Research

The Association Between Spirituality and Depression in an Urban Clinic

Benjamin R. Doolittle, MD, MDiv, and Michael Farrell, MD

Published: June 1, 2004

Article Abstract

Objective: To investigate the correlation between spiritual beliefs and depression in an urban population.

Method: A convenience sample of adult patients of an urban primary care clinic completed a self-administered questionnaire consisting of the Zung Depression Scale and the Spiritual Involvement and Beliefs Scale (SIBS).

Results: Among 122 respondents, 99 (81%) reported that they consider themselves religious. Responses from the Zung Depression Scale found that 76 (62%) of the patients were depressed and 46 (38%) were not. The Pearson correlation coefficient between the Zung Depression Scale and the SIBS was -0.36 (p < .0001). Backward stepwise regression analysis revealed that SIBS score and physical health predicted the Zung Depression Scale score. Age, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, and income showed no significant association with depression. Analysis of individual SIBS items revealed that high spirituality scores on items in the domain of intrinsic beliefs, such as belief in a higher power (p < .01), the importance of prayer (p < .0001), and finding meaning in times of hardship (p < .05), were associated negatively with depression. Attendance of religious services had no significant association with depression.

Conclusion: Appropriate encouragement of a patient’s spiritual beliefs may be a helpful adjunct to treating depression.

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