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Study Reports Clergy are more likely to have Depression or Anxiety

Update Date: Aug 28, 2013 01:58 PM EDT

Mental illnesses are hard to treat due to varying symptoms that often overlap between the diseases. Because of the difficulty in treating mental illnesses, researchers have spent decades studying them in order to find ways of preventing and treating the conditions. In a new study, researchers discovered that profession could greatly influence one's risk of mental illnesses. In this study, the researchers reported that the clergy are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

In this study that was conducted by the Clergy Health Initiative at Duke Divinity School, the researchers looked at a sample of 1,765 pastors, which made up 95 percent of the United Methodists clergy in North Carolina and compared them to a representative group of people. The clergy participants were 75 percent male and 91 percent white with the mean age of 52-years-old. The researchers focused on mental health in order to identify factors that could predict depression and anxiety.

The study found that the depression rates for the clergy was 8.7 percent when the information was gathered via telephone interviews. When the questionnaire was done via the Internet or paper, the depression rate increased to 11.1 percent. This percentage is twice the rate of the country, which is at 5.5 percent. The researchers also found that 13.5 percent of the clergy experienced anxiety. Over seven percent of the clergy suffered from both depression and anxiety.

The researchers identified several factors that might have contributed to the increased rates of depression and anxiety. These factors could all be categorized under stressful activities. The researchers explained that the clergy are often involved with grief counseling, dealing with multiple demands from congregants and delivering a weekly sermon that is subjected to criticism every time. All of the extra stress could eventually take a mental toll on the clergy. Aside from added stress, the researchers also found that a lot of the pastors felt a sense of guilt if they believed that they did not do enough for their community. This guilt was one of the top contributors to depression.

"Pastors may have created a life for themselves that is so strongly intertwined with their ministry, that their emotional health is dependent on the state of their ministry," said Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, the Clergy Health Initiative's research director, and assistant research professor at the Duke Global Health Institute reported by Medical Xpress. "So it's possible that when pastors feel their ministry is going well, they experience positive emotions potent enough to buffer them from mental distress. Of course, the converse is also true."

The study was published in the Journal of Primary Prevention. This study is a part of a longitudinal study that was conducted in 2008, 2010 and 2012. It will continue to gather information in 2014 and 2014. 

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