The relation of religious preference and practice to depressive symptoms among 1,855 older adults

Gary J. Kennedy, Howard R. Kelman, Cynthia Thomas, Jiming Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

70 Scopus citations


Religious devotion is a complex phenomenon but a potentially important source of support and meaning in the lives of older adults. Nonetheless, attendance at religious services and religious preference (affiliation) have received relatively little prominence in epidemiological studies of late life mental illness despite their relative ease of measurement. We examined differences in the prevalence and course of depressive symptoms and associated characteristics among 1,855 older community residents who expressed a Jewish, Catholic, or other religious preference. At baseline, Jewish religious preference was associated with a twofold elevation in the prevalence of depressive symptoms compared to Catholics. Lack of attendance at religious services was associated with greater prevalence of depression among all groups, significantly so among Catholics. The relationship of depression with Jewish religious preference and with failure to attend services could not be accounted far by measures of age, gender, health, disability, or social support. Twenty-four months following baseline, Jewish religious preference was associated with the emergence of depressive symptoms and remained significant when the effects of age, gender, health, disability, and social support were controlled. Failure to attend services was associated with both the emergence and persistence of depression but did not remain significant once the effects of other characteristics were controlled. For both religious and health care institutions, these findings have implications for the prevention, recognition, and treatment of late life mental illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)P301-P308
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1996


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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