Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Religiosity, Personal Distress and Minor Psychiatric Morbidity among Black Students in South Africa

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Religiosity, Personal Distress and Minor Psychiatric Morbidity among Black Students in South Africa

Article excerpt

The aim of the study was to examine the proposition that religiosity and the related factor, spirituality, contribute to lower personal distress among students. The sample comprised 624 students: 314 Grade 12 secondary school students and 310 third-year social science university students in South Africa. Results indicate that the majority of the students show a high degree of religious belief and religious involvement. Some religious variables - such as being a born-again Christian and considering religion as important - were associated with decreased Perceived Stress. Minor psychiatric morbidity as measured with the Self-reporting Questionnaire (SRQ; WHO, 1994) was positively associated with some religious beliefs and involvement, while meaning and direction in life was inversely associated with the SRQ score. All three religious coping styles were inversely associated with perceived stress. Contrary to expectations it was found that some of the religious coping styles were positively associated with minor psychiatric morbidity, especially the depression scores of the SRQ. Findings show that some religious variables were positively associated with mental health while others were inversely or not related, thus only partially supporting the religion-mental health link.

Regarding minor psychiatric morbidity and religiosity, Koenig, McCullough, and Larson (2001) conclude that (a) Jews and people who are not affiliated with any religion are at elevated risk for depressive disorder and depressive symptoms, (b) people who are involved frequently in religious community activity and who highly value their religious faith for intrinsic reasons may be at reduced risk for depression, (c) certain measures of religious involvement - particularly private religious activities and religious beliefs - are not as strongly related to depression as are organizational religious activities or intrinsic religious commitment, (d) religious involvement plays an important role in helping people cope with the effects of stressful life circumstances. Some forms of religious coping are related to lower likelihood of depression dunng or after stressful life events. that is, religious or spiritual activities may lead to a reduction in depressive symptoms, and (e) religious involvement is negatively associated with fatal and nonfatal suicidal behavior, suicidal ideation, and tolerant attitudes toward suicide across a variety of samples from many nations. Concerning anxiety, evidence suggests that religion as a whole - especially intrinsic religiousness tends to buffer against anxiety. While anxiety may motivate religious activities, over time these activities may result in lower anxiety. Religious involvement may be especially important in protecting persons with serious medical illness from experiencing anxiety related to dependency, loss of control, and end-of-life issues. Further, most studies that have examined the interaction of stress and religious involvement found at least partial support for a stress-moderating effect (ibid.). Fabricatore, Randal, Rubio and Gilner (2004) show that religiousness is indirectly related - through collaborative religious coping - to favorable mental health outcomes in the presence of stressors.

In addition, religious coping appears to be more common in health-related situations than in many other circumstances (Bickel et al., 1998). Francis and Kerr (2003) found that among secondary school students in South Africa there is an inverse relationship between psychoticism and religiosity, while neither neuroticism nor extraversion was either positively or negatively related to religiosity. Renner, Peltzer and Phaswana (2003) found that among Northern Sotho university students in South Africa "religiosity and support" was the most important value.

The aim of this study was to examine the proposition that religiosity and the related factor, spirituality, would contribute to lower personal distress among students. …

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