Prospective associations between religiousness/spirituality and depression and mediating effects of forgiveness in a nationally representative sample of united states adults

  • Toussaint L
  • Marschall J
  • Williams D
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Abstract

The present investigation examines the prospective associations of religiousness/spirituality with depression and the extent to which various dimensions of forgiveness act as mediating mechanisms of these associations. Data are from a nationally representative sample of United States adults who were first interviewed in 1998 and reinterviewed six months later. Measures of religiousness/spirituality, forgiveness, and various sociodemographics were collected. Depression was assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview administered by trained interviewers. Results showed that religiousness/spirituality, forgiveness of oneself and others, and feeling forgiven by God were associated, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally, with depressive status. After controlling for initial depressive status, only forgiveness of oneself and others remained statistically significant predictors of depression. Path analyses revealed that religiousness/spirituality conveyed protective effects, prospectively, on depression by way of an indirect path through forgiveness of others but not forgiveness of oneself. Hence, forgiveness of others acts as a mechanism of the salutary effect of religiousness/spirituality, but forgiveness of oneself is an independent predictor. Conclusions regarding the continued development of this type of research and for the treatment of clients with depression are offered.

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