DEPRESSION MORE LIKELY IN PENTACOSTAL CULTS The rate of major depression among Pentacostal

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DEPRESSION MORE LIKELY IN PENTACOSTAL CULTS The rate of major depression among Pentacostal Christians is three times higher than among members of other religious groups, according to a study of 2,850 North Carolina residents. But whether this means that Pentacostal sects, a form of conservative Christianity that usually features speaking in tongues, attract more depressed people or whether the prevalence of depression reflects a franker acknowledgement of emotional difficulties among Pentacostals, the authors can't say. The study, led by Keith G. Meador, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, is one of the few to examine religious affiliation and mental health. Meador and his co-authors, who published their results in the December issue of the journal Hospital and Community Psychiatry, used data from a large study sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. Researchers divided the survey respondents into six categories: mainline Protestant (which included Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, African Methodist Episcopal and Quaker); conservative Protestant (including Baptist and Seventh Day Adventist); Roman Catholic; Pentacostals (Church of God, Assembly of God, People's Temple); other (Unitarian, Jewish, Greek Orthodox, Muslim) and no religion (those who had no preference or refused to answer). The age, race, "socioeconomic" status and gender distribution of the group reflected the population of North Carolina. The authors found that the rate of serious depression in the previous six months among Pentacostal Christians was 5.4 percent, compared to 1.7 percent for the entire survey group. "One possible explanation for the increased prevalence of major depression among Pentacostals is . . . that these groups frequently emphasize charismatic forms of healing and supernatural cures for illness," the authors write. Therefore they hypothesize, "religiously inclined persons experiencing the pain and distress of major depression might seek out such groups." There are other possible explanations, the authors observe, among them that Pentacostal affiliation causes depression. "One could argue that despite the seemingly internally supportive milieu provided by Pentacostal groups, they simultaneously isolate members from the broader culture, thereby at least subtly fostering feelings of social isolation and of powerlessness." The other possibility, the authors point out, is that the findings are merely a chance occurence. Regardless of the reason, they conclude that the results of the study "are most useful for developing hypothesis for future work" that would explore the largely overlooked interrelationship between specific religious practices and mental health.

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