MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Tyler J. VanderWeele PhD
Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health,
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: There have been a number of prior studies on religious practices of adolescents, but this study is a relatively big step forward because it is considerably more rigorous than the vast majority of prior studies. The study uses a large sample of over 5,000 adolescents, it follows them up for more than eight years, it controls for many other variables to try to isolate the effect of religious upbringing, and it looks at many outcomes.
In our analysis, we found that children who were raised in a religious or spiritual environment were subsequently better protected from the “big three” dangers of adolescence – depression, substance abuse and risky behaviors. For example, those who attended religious services regularly were subsequently:
- 12% less likely to have high depressive symptoms
- 33% less likely to use illicit drugs
Those who prayed or meditated frequently were:
- 30% less likely to start having sex at a young age
- 40% less likely to subsequently have a sexually transmitted infection.
Moreover, a religious upbringing also contributed towards to a number of positive outcomes as well such greater happiness, more volunteering in the community, a greater sense of mission and purpose, and higher levels of forgiveness. For example,those who attended religious services were subsequently:
- 18% more likely to report high levels of happiness
- 87% more likely to have high levels of forgivenessThose who prayed or meditated frequently were subsequently:
- 38% more likely to volunteer in their community
- 47% more likely to have a high sense of mission and purpose
These are relatively large effects across a variety of health and well-being outcomes. Continue reading