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Belief in God May Help Speed Up Recovery in Psychiatric Patients

Update Date: Apr 25, 2013 09:38 AM EDT

Belief in a god may significantly improve the outcome of patients receiving short-term treatment for psychiatric illness, according to a new study.

The study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders involved 159 patients who were asked to gauge their belief in God as well as their expectations for treatment outcome and emotional regulation. Patients' levels of depression, wellbeing and self-harm were also assessed at the beginning and end of treatment.

Researchers found that patients who rated their belief in a god as moderate or high, even if they claimed no specific religious affiliation, were significantly more likely to respond to treatment compared to those with "no" or only "slight" belief in a higher power.

The study revealed that patients who didn't believe or had little belief in a god were twice as likely not to respond to treatment compared to patients with higher levels of belief.

"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. Belief was associated with not only improved psychological wellbeing, but decreases in depression and intention to self-harm," lead researcher David H. Rosmarin, from the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said in a news release.

Researchers concluded that faith in God is associated with improved treatment outcomes in psychiatric care.

"More centrally, our results suggest that belief in the credibility of psychiatric treatment and increased expectations to gain from treatment might be mechanisms by which belief in God can impact treatment outcomes," researchers explained in the study.

"Given the prevalence of religious belief in the United States - over 90% of the population - these findings are important in that they highlight the clinical implications of spiritual life. I hope that this work will lead to larger studies and increased funding in order to help as many people as possible," Rosmarin added.

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