Depression -- clinical and otherwise -- is a major problem in our culture. And there are efforts to help members of the clergy identify it in their congregations and to know when to recommend that those who seem to be suffering from it get professional help.
That, at least, is the finding of a new study by researchers at Columbia University.
As the press release about the study says, "Those who gave religion or spirituality a top score were shown to have a thicker brain cortex in the exact region where the cortex was thinning in those who were non-believers…and who were at high risk for depression."
Interesting, but a word of caution.
Becoming an adherent of a religion or a practitioner of a spiritual path simply to ward off depression strikes me as a pretty shallow reason.
And my guess is that one reason people who are active in a religion or a spiritual practice may be less likely to suffer depression than others is that they have become part of a larger supportive community and, thus, are less likely to feel alone or abandoned.
No doubt clinical depression can be found in deeply religious people as it can be found in others. But when someone in a faith community experiences symptoms, there's at least a chance that he or she will know that support is available from fellow members.
It would be interesting to see whether a similar finding might be true of non-religious people who are, nonetheless, members of some kind of tight-knit community. Maybe we should pray that someone does such a study. Our praying might ward off depression. Maybe.
(The photo above came from here.)
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POPE FRANCIS, OBAMA TO TALK
President Obama plans to travel to Italy in late March to talk with Pope Francis. See? This pope not only washes the feet of poor Muslims, he also meets with famous ones. (If I have to explain to you that this is a joke, satire, go directly to jail. Do not pass "Go." Do not collect $200. And don't e-mail me.)
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.