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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 45 (2003) 8, 495 - 505

Review article

Religiosity and depression in later life: a review of recent epidemiological research

A.W. Braam, A.T.F. Beekman, W. van Tilburg

background  In psychiatric epidemiology and gerontology it is frequently reported that religious beliefs and the practice of religion protect the elderly from depression.
  To investigate whether certain aspects of religious belief and practice of religiosity are associated with depression and whether explanatory factors such as coping mechanisms can be identified. method  Medline literature search was performed for the period 1997-2002, using as key words religion/religious/religiosity/spirituality, in combination with aging/elderly/old/late-life and depressive/depression/mental-health.
result  In cross-sectional studies church-attendance is consistently associated with lower levels of depression. On the other hand, religiosity in the form of negative religious emotions (e.g. anger) and negative religious coping strategies (e.g. expectation of punishment) is associated with higher levels of depression. Persons to whom religion is important in everyday life are more likely to recover from depression. Sofar, there is little empirical support for explanatory or mediating factors.
  Religiosity can incorporate risk-factors, but more often than not belief in it generates a potential for hope or a propensity for adaptation in later life.

keywords depression, elderly, empirical, religion, spirituality