We've moved!

Check out our new site at
and be sure to update your bookmarks.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Religion Can Make Some Teens More Depressed

Most research shows religious participation can help teens battle depression because their involvement provides them with a support system and sense of belonging. But a new study in the journal Review of Religious Research shows this positive effect doesn't hold true for everyone: For adolescents from certain races, as well as females from all races, high levels of worship and involvement in their religious institutions can make them more depressed.
According to the study, white and black teenagers who report high levels of religious participation also report low levels of depression, but Latino and Asian-American teens who are highly active in their church have more symptoms of depression than do their peers of the same race.
“Asian and Latino youth who are highly involved in a culturally distinct church may have a more difficult time balancing the beliefs of their family and their traditional culture with mainstream society. Their religious institution is telling them what should be important in their lives and how to behave, and mainstream society is saying something else," study co-author Richard Petts, a sociologist at Ball State University, said in a press release.
When it comes to teenagers who go to church at least once a week, Asian-Americans report 20 to 27 percent more symptoms of depression than do whites and blacks, while Latinos report 6 to 14 percent higher rates of depression. But Latino teens who never attend church also report high levels of depression, rates 26 to 28 percent higher than white and black teenagers. Within their groups, Asian-Americans who never go to religious services and Latinos who show a mid-range level of involvement with their religion were the least likely to be depressed. “Participating to a certain extent may enable these youth to balance their lives better," says Petts. "They have a connection with a religious community and all the benefits it offers, but they are not so immersed that they’re out of touch with mainstream society. So they’re sort of getting the best of both worlds."
Female adolescents, he says, also often experience a tension between the culture and traditions of their religion and those of society. Higher levels of depression in females, he believes, come from the fact that women often have subordinate status in religious institutions and may "feel that they don't have equal say." Notably, female teens who are sexually active report higher levels of depression than sexually active males do—an example, Petts thinks, of the emotional stress that can result when religious dictates and personal decisions compete and conflict.
Still, says Petts, who conducted the study with Anne Jolliff when they were both doctoral students at Ohio State University, race and gender "are not the only two factors that may be contributing to higher and lower depression among youth." We need to, he says, "consider the broader social aspects of institutions such as religion on an individual's well being, both good and bad." —Heather Wax


V.V. Raman said...

A few questions come to mind when I read this:
When this report says Asian Americans, does it refer to Asian Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, or Muslims?
What is/was the goal of this so-called study?
How are religious people, scientists, or the general public benefiting from this sort of report?
Are the youth going to stop or start attending (whatever) church as a result of such "studies"?
Who is paying for this type of "scientific" research?