22 September 2013

Be happy, be an atheist

I couldn't resist a chuckle over a study reported in the October issue of the journal Psychological Medicine. The study, entitled "Spiritual and religious beliefs as risk factors for the onset of major depression: an international cohort study," examined the incidence of major depression in 8,318 people from seven countries over a one-year period. The participants were broken down into three groups: a group who held "a spiritual understanding of life," a religious group, and a secular group.

Over the year, 10.5 per cent of the first group had an episode of depression compared to 10.3 per cent of the religious participants and only 7.0 per cent of the secularists. According to the report, "The findings varied significantly across countries, with the difference being significant only in the UK, where spiritual participants were nearly three times more likely to experience an episode of depression than the secular group ... The strength of belief also had an effect, with participants with strong belief having twice the risk of participants with weak belief. There was no evidence of religion acting as a buffer to prevent depression after a serious life event."

Now, believe me, I may be an atheist but I'm not gloating. Depression is much too serious a matter for that. I'm simply pointing out the possibility that religion may be the problem, not the solution.

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