According to a new study recently published in the current issue of Journal of Affective Disorders, religious beliefs cause a significant improvement in the outcomes of patients who are receiving short-term treatment for psychiatric illness.
The study was conducted by researchers at McLean Hospital and led by Dr. David H. Rosmarin, Ph.D., McLean Hospital clinician and instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. They analyzed data collected from participants at the Behavioral Health Partial Hospital program at McLean. The goal of the study was to find out if a patient’s belief in God, coupled with their treatment expectations, affected their outcomes.
“Our work suggests that people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without, regardless of their religious affiliation. Belief was associated with not only improved psychological wellbeing, but decreases in depression and intention to self-harm,” explained Rosmarin.
The results of the study showed that of the participating patients, over 30 percent of those who stated that they were not particularly religious saw the same benefits from their treatment if they still believed in God deeply. However, those patients who believed in God only a little bit or less than that were two times as likely to experience no response to their treatment. What this means is that patients who believed greatly in God showed better treatment outcomes than those who didn’t.
The study’s conclusion stated that “belief in God is associated with improved treatment outcomes in psychiatric care. More centrally, our results suggest that belief in the credibility of psychiatric treatment and increased expectations to gain from treatment might be mechanisms by which belief in God can impact treatment outcomes.”
“Given the prevalence of religious belief in the United States — over 90 percent of the population — these findings are important in that they highlight the clinical implications of spiritual life,” Rosmarin commented. “I hope that this work will lead to larger studies and increased funding in order to help as many people as possible.”
With so many patients who have psychiatric illnesses being treated with antidepressant medications like Paxil or Effexor, this study could prove very useful. It is well documented that psychiatric patients often suffer from conditions like depression and anxiety, which are treated with dangerous drugs like Paxil or Effexor. It is also well-known that those drugs cause serious side effects like violent and suicidal thoughts and behavior. Knowing that a patient’s religious beliefs can help play a role in their treatment may help some patients avoid the fates that their “cure” can cause.