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Previous research has shown prospectively that religiosity/spirituality protects against depression, but these findings are commonly critiqued on two grounds, namely: (1) apparent religiosity/spirituality reflects merely an original absence of depression or elevated mood and (2) religiosity/spirituality too often is measured as a global construct. The current study investigates the relationship between depression and religiosity/spirituality by examining its multidimensional structural integrity.
Confirmatory factor analyses with a previously observed cross-cultural factor structure of religiosity/spirituality variables were conducted on an independent sample, diagnostic and familial risk subgroups from this sample, and a subsample of the original cross-cultural sample. Linear regressions onto a previous diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD) 5 years prior to assess the potential attenuating impact of a previous depression was explored.
Across familial risk groups and clinical subgroups, each of the previously validated religiosity/spirituality domains was confirmed, namely: religious/spiritual commitment, contemplative practice, sense of interconnectedness, the experience of love, and altruistic engagement. Previous MDD diagnosis was associated with a lower religious/spiritual commitment among high-risk individuals, higher contemplation among low-risk individuals, and lower importance of religion or spirituality regardless of risk group.
Structural integrity was found across familial risk groups and diagnostic history for a multidimensional structure of religiosity/spirituality. Differential associations between a previous diagnosis of MDD and level of religiosity/spirituality across domains suggest a complex and interactive relation between depression, familial risk, and religiosity/spirituality. Accounting for an empirically valid, multidimensional understanding of religiosity/spirituality may advance research on mechanisms underlying the relationship between religiosity/spirituality and mental health.
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