Sociology, Department of


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Society and Mental Health 2:1 (2012), pp. 21–34; DOI: 10.1177/2156869312442885


Copyright © 2012 American Sociological Association ; published by Sage Publications. Used by permission.


Using a survey of adults in Nebraska, we find that the association between church attendance and mental health varies across religious traditions and across two distinct dimensions of mental health—depressive symptoms and positive affect. Specifically, the association between church attendance and depressive symptoms differs for mainline Protestants, evangelical Protestants, and Catholics. Of these three religious traditions, only mainline Protestants report significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms when they attend church more often. Comparing across religious traditions, we find that among high attendees, evangelical Protestants report considerably more depressive symptoms than do Catholics; among low attendees, evangelicals report fewer depressive symptoms than do mainline Protestants. The results also show that church attendance is unrelated to positive affect for respondents as a whole and across the three religious traditions. We discuss how these differences in the relationship between church attendance and mental health comport with theological and social distinctions across religious traditions.

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