A little more problem -haring could go a long way, even in a pandemic or because of it, to help improve mental health among congregation members, researchers concluded in one recently published study.
Published in the Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, the research paper was funded by The John Templeton Foundation. The findings were drawn from online surveys completed between October and December 2020 in 12 congregations (Christian, Jewish and Hindu) in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Texas.
The study was completed by a team from the Department of Sociology at The Catholic University of America and looked at the impact of talking to other congregants about private problems. Scholars looked at an overall assessment of mental health as well as an indicator of COVID-19-related mental health worsening.
The team found that the beneficial effect of sharing problems in relation to overall mental health and had a role in lowering the chances of COVID-19 related mental health problems. These mental health problems related to COVID-19 pandemic features anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation.
The findings, the authors concluded, highlight that the practice of problem sharing should be counted as a mental health resource in congregations and raises the need to better understand its underutilization.
Other studies have found a link between church participation and improved mental health outcomes, but none looked at mental health at the height of a global pandemic. They say the benefits of sharing problems are more evident when done often and remain statistically significant net of passive social support and other controls in the study.
Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.