New publication with Lore Van Herreweghe in PLoS ONE on the role of religiousness in reducing old-age depressive symptoms.
Higher levels of religiousness are associated with better mental health outcomes, but most of previous research is cross-sectional, failing to address issues of selection and reverse causation. We assessed the longitudinal association between both public and private religiousness and depressive symptoms, drawing on data from 7,719 persons aged 65 and older of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Repeated measurements of different aspects of religiousness and depressive symptoms were used in random and fixed-effects models in order to assess the effect of changes in religious behavior on changes in depressive symptoms. Praying more than once a day was associated with more depressive symptoms (β = 0.150, 95% CI: 0.003, 0.298) relative to individuals who never pray, adjusted for socio-demographic characteristics, physical health covariates and history of depression, but the comparison with the fixed effects model suggests that this is the result of a selection effect. Participating weekly or more in a religious organization was associated with fewer depressive symptoms (β = -0.219, 95% CI: -0.344, -0.094), but this appeared to be spurious after taking due account of possible confounders (β = -0.092, 95% CI: -0.223, 0.038). Focusing on within-persons changes, we found that participating in religious organizations weekly or more was associated with more depressive symptoms (β = 0.275, 95% CI: 0.075, 0.475). Our findings do not support that religious behavior, both public or private, may be beneficial for the mental health of older Europeans.