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Light in the darkness: Prayer found beneficial in battling depression

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Time spent with one's creator has been found beneficial for those who are dealing with depression. Research has proven that those who believe in a higher power and regularly confer with that power are more capable of dealing with depression. Furthermore, researchers say that the benefit is not confined to any one specific religion.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Religious faith has been found to significantly improve treatment for people suffering with a psychiatric illness, according to research carried out by McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.

Following 159 patients over the course of a year, doctors at the Behavioral Health Partial Hospital program at McLean investigated the relationship between a patient's level of belief in God, expectations for treatment and actual treatment outcomes.

Test subjects were asked to gauge their belief in God as well as their expectations for treatment outcome on a five-point scale. Levels of depression, well being, and self-harm were assessed at the beginning and end of their treatment program.

Patients with "no" or only 'slight' belief in God were twice as likely not to respond to treatment as patients with higher levels of belief.

And more than 30 percent of patients claiming no specific religious affiliation still saw the same benefits in treatment if their belief in God was rated as moderately or very high.

Therefore, the study concluded that a belief in God is associated with improved treatment outcomes in psychiatric care.

"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," the report read.

Belief was associated with a decrease in depression and intention to self-harm.

"I hope that this work will lead to larger studies and increased funding in order to help as many people as possible," McLean Hospital clinician and instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical David Rosmarin says,

Previous studies, such as the one conducted at San Francisco General Hospital monitored the effects of prayer on 393 cardiac patients, have also highlighted the power of prayer on a person's health.

Patients were asked if they wanted to take part in the trial but were not told whether they would be the subject of prayers. Half were prayed for by a group of strangers who only had the patients' names.

As a result, those who were prayed for had fewer complications, fewer cases of pneumonia and needed less drug treatment. They also improved more quickly and were able to leave hospital earlier.

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