BACKGROUND: Religiosity has been examined as a mechanism of stress management. Since many studies have shown a high rate of psychological morbidity among medical students during different stages oftraining, it is important to investigate whether religiosity may serve as a protective factor.
OBJECTIVES: To assess the association between religiosity and depression or anxiety in a sample of medical students and to compare the results with a matched sample of students from other fields of study.
METHODS: This cross-sectional study examined a sample of Tel Aviv University medical students and compared them with students in other faculties at the same university for any association between religiosity and depression or anxiety. The subjects completed the Beck Depression Inventory, the Beck Anxiety Inventory, a modified religiosity inventory, and a demographic and psychosocial variables inventory.
RESULTS: Findings did not show a significant association between religiosity and depression or anxiety in the general sample (n = 119). A positive significant correlation between religiosity and anxiety was found among medical students, with 29.4% of them reporting anxiety and 25.2% depression. While high rates of depression and anxiety were reported by students in the first to third years (preclinical years), there was a decrease in depression and anxiety in the fourth to sixth years (clinical years). However, higher anxiety and depression scores were noted among controls as compared to medical students.
CONCLUSIONS: In contrast to another recent investigation, a negative correlation between religion and depression/anxiety does not necessarily exist. An association between religiosity and mental health could have many theoretical and practical implications and requires further investigation. Similar to previous studies, the rates of depression and anxiety among Israeli medical students were comparable with those of other countries. These rates are considered higher than those in the general population and emphasize the importance of alertness to mental health issues among students, especially during the early study years.
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