Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Spirituality and Depression-Via Orrin Judd , I found this interesting Canadian piece
According to polls in the U.S. and Canada, 40 per cent of Americans and 20 per cent of Canadians report attending worship services regularly, but some pollsters believe the real numbers are closer to 20 per cent in the U.S. and 10 per cent in Canada. Dr. Baetz said those who told the National Population Survey they considered themselves very spiritual also reported higher levels of depression, a result that is contrary to U.S. studies that report lower levels of depression among those who regularly attend worship services. She says it is "an odd finding" and might be accounted for by those with higher levels of depression turning to spirituality for help.
Canada is less evangelical (about 10%) than the US as well. For the 80% who aren't going to a church, that "very spiritual" might manifest itself in various New Age practices, such as TM. Meditation has antidotal evidence on both sides, it helps calm some people down but gives others "bad trips." As I recall Mary Karr saying in a Fresh Air interview (talking about depression in general, not meditation): "Your mind is a dangerous place; don't go there alone." I'm coming at this from a Christian perspective, but the evidence I've seen over the years would lead me to think that Eastern meditative practices would hurt quite a few people, as the emptying process that meditation encourages opens the mind to manipulation. When you're going into the corners of your mind alone without the Holy Spirit's help, it opens you up to any number of bad thoughts coming to the fore to torment you; thinking about your problems alone often makes things worse. Also, such meditative states leave less savory spiritual entities room to screw things up. A future study might ask what forms that spirituality takes; I'd expect a higher correlation of depression with Eastern practices that with traditional Christian activities. It also could be that depressed people are drawn to New Age stuff rather than it making people depressed, but a more detailed study might prove interesting.

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