Depression and Religion

31 03 2010

Depression is one of the most common ailments in America today.  About 19 million Americans suffer from depressive symptoms in any given year.  Depression can be a difficult burden to bear, and in some cases leads to more severe disorders later in life.  Many people suffering from depression turn to religion as a source of comfort and inspiration to help them overcome.

While many find the solace they seek in religion, there are also many people who express sentiments that religion (and God) has failed to help them overcome their problems.  Anne Brower and Albert Scariato of The Washington Post  publish a regular column dealing with faith and healing.  In their article “Depression and Religion” they explore the role of God and individuals in overcoming depression.  In response to the idea that God is responsible for dealing with our depression, they write:

“Some people talk about the purpose of suffering. ‘God never sends us more than we can bear,’ we hear, as if God purposely sends us suffering. Can’t we acknowledge that we learn from suffering, without believing that God planned it all in advance in order to teach us? Stuff happens. Let’s stop blaming God. It might be the first step towards changing the effect religion has on depression.”

I would agree with their assertion that taking responsibility and turning the blame away from God is an important step in truly conquering depression or any other challenge we face here in life.  If we blame him for our trials, how can we expect to receive his help?  It is a form of cutting ourselves off from His presence and preventing the very healing we seek.

So the point of this post is this: we should stop blaming God for our challenges and seek his help in overcoming them.  With that mindset we will be able to succeed in all our efforts because we will be able to face life with God’s strength, not our own.


Another Word of Wisdom

29 03 2010

Previously I talked a bit about the Word of Wisdom that is practiced by Latter-day Saints.  I talked mostly about the prohibitions on drugs, alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee listed therein.  While the Word of Wisdom is very valuable for its counsel in regard to what we shouldn’t take, it’s also very helpful in recommending some things that are good for us to eat.

Modern nutritional science is finally coming out and telling us that we need to eat certain amounts of fruits, veggies, etc. each day.  The food pyramid has been established to help us plan our meals and diets.  But yet again, the Word of  Wisdom taught these things over a hundred years ago.

The revelation encourages us to eat lots of grains, eat meat sparingly, and to do so with thanksgiving.  This simple health code is now being taught to people all over the United States as obesity and heart disease continue to claim more victims each year.

This again shows the role of God in helping us be healthy.  He created our bodies and wants us to be able to maintain them and respect them like the temples they are.

So, as the saying goes, eat your fruits and veggies.

Are Religious People Stupid?

29 03 2010

A few years ago a study was released that showed the correlation between IQ and the importance of religion in several countries around the world.  The results conclusively show that where religion is highly valued, IQ is lower.

The United States is at about the 60% line and has an IQ rating considerably higher than other countries that place the same value on religion.

Some have used this study as evidence that religion is the “opiate of the masses.”  It would seem from this graph that dumber people place a higher value on religion.

With a little common sense it is easy to see that this linkage can be explained by other means.  Rich Deem from did a little comparison in which he placed a similar graph of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over this graph.  The correlation is the same.  In poorer countries, religion has a higher value.

So based on this information it is clear that in most cases when income is low, religious value is higher.  This could be attributable to the idea that poorer, hungrier people put more trust in God.  In poorer countries, educational quality is often low.  These simple facts could be the cause for the linkage between religious importance and IQ.  Therefore, this study is not conclusive proof that religion has a negative impact on or correlation with mental health or strength.

Social Relations and Health

28 03 2010

The National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP) is an organization that has been formed in an effort to understand the linkage between social interaction and aging.  An important goal of public health workers worldwide is to increase the number of quality years of life.  This study is particularly important in that regard.  The Project describes itself as being beneficial to accomplishing this goal because:

“NSHAP, by eliciting a variety of information from respondents over time, will provide data that will allow researchers in a number of fields to examine how specific factors may or may not affect each other across the life course. This is an exciting opportunity to improve the understanding of health and the aging process.”

This ties in to this blog well because being part of a congregation creates a sense of belonging and provides many opportunities to meet with others in a social setting.

The direct correlation between having social relationships and increased years of healthy life is yet to be determined.  However, the mental and physical benefits of social interaction are commonly accepted by many experts in the field.

Charitable Donations and Health

25 03 2010

Today many health experts look at health as a conglomerate of various factors that are not limited to the traditional view of health as being purely physical.  A more holistic view of health that includes body, mind, and sometimes metaphysical aspects is becoming more popular.  I think most of us would agree that when we are happy  and rested that we feel healthier.

Arthur C. Brooks, a renowned economist and devout Catholic, went about doing some research to prove that giving charitably is not a creator of wealth.  As he conducted his research he actually discovered that people who gave more, earned more.  He ran the numbers a few times in disbelief but eventually came to accept the reality that philanthropy is a fiscally responsible practice (see The Privilege of Giving).  To illustrate:

“Imagine you have two families that are exactly the same demographically. Same level of education, number of kids, region of residence, ages, religion—the only difference is that the first family gives $100 more to charity than the second family. It turns out that first family will earn, on average, $375 more than the nongiving family, and that extra income is attributable to the charitable donation.”

Not only that, but he found that giving had a positive effect on the happiness and well-being of those he studied.  For example:

1.  Happier people give more and people who give more are happier.

2.  Volunteering one more time per week will raise your likelihood of saying you’re very happy by 50 percent.

3.  Blood donors are 50 percent more likely to say they’re very happy than people who don’t donate blood.

4.  Psychologists have found that stress hormones are reduced or repressed by charitable giving acts.

These are just a few great examples of what can happen when we give.  Most religions require or at least preach some kind of giving.  Sacrifice to God is a principle commonly shared across most belief systems.  Time, talents, money, interests; all these things can be offered to God.  And, as Mr. Brooks shows, when we give we are more likely to be happy and therefore healthy.

A Word of Wisdom

24 03 2010

It is pretty common knowledge today that tobacco has adverse health effects.  Thanks to tobacco our health care system is inundated with chronic health conditions.  The body count from smoking-related deaths is staggering.  And yet 60 years ago some doctors would have argued the health benefits of smoking.

As time moves along, science uncovers truths about certain health issues that would never have been conventionally accepted.  It has been only a couple hundred years since the miasma theory of health was commonly accepted.  Now we understand that diseases are most commonly caused by bacteria and viruses that we pick up by contacting contaminated objects.  But what if we could have known the health effects of tobacco a hundred years ago?  How different would society be today?

Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church, wrote an article that denounces the use of tobacco, alcohol, drugs, tea, and coffee.  It is plain today that tobacco, drugs, and alcohol have negative health effects, though the dangers behind tea and coffee are yet to be discovered.

Is it possible that God still speaks to us today?  And if so, would he give us health advice?

For practitioners of the Mormon faith, at least, religion has been a great factor in improved health.

Marriage Is Beneficial to Health

23 03 2010

Marriage is one of the central principles of many religions. Most Christian sects, along with Islam, Judaism, and various other systems of belief focus on the union of a man and a woman as being one of the greatest commandments of God.

Research by Brian Baker, a cardiologist, has shown that marriage alleviates many of the indicators of future health problems, such as blood pressure, stress levels, and even immune system strength. The reduction of these factors can prevent the leading causes of death in the Unites States.

“The benefits are better physical health, more resistance to infection, fewer infections, and a reduced likelihood of dying from cancer, from heart disease, from all major killers,” -John Gottman, PhD.

These results are true primarily in “good” marriages. In marriages that are suffering, it may actually be better to avoid your spouse, says Baker. Being around a spouse while in a poor marriage can actually increase blood pressure.

It is interesting to note that married couples are more likely to be healthy except in regard to weight.  Married couples are more likely to be overweight than those who are not married.

From a more holistic perspective, marriage also benefits spiritual and emotional health (Church News).

The formula for a successful marriage? Having common beliefs and values. This would be easy to achieve in a marriage in which both parties share the same religious values.