Is Religion Healthy?

One issue that has become increasingly popular on our campus is the attention we pay to mental health and those who suffer from mental health issues on our campuses. In fact, Penn State did a study and reported the findings about it in an online document that can be accessed easily. I think this is an absolutely fantastic idea, and it should continue to be an ongoing conversation because of the relevance it has in the live of over 46,000 undergraduate students and University Park. Our commonwealth campuses are focusing on it as well. Within the this wide range of data presented in the study and the findings, I am presenting the hypothesis that religion has a significant impact on the mental health of the students that use the resources. Significant in this case would mean more than 50% of the sample population.

After investigating the data presented, I cross referenced the graphs on page 28, more specifically the graphs about the religious preferences of the participants and to what extent (self identified) that the participants felt their religious or spiritual preferences play a role in their life (see below).Displaying image1.PNG

The question isn’t whether a differing religion will make the difference in mental health, but that may be interesting to explore at another point. Remember, the hypothesis we are looking at is “religion has a significant impact on the mental health of the students and Penn State”. The null hypothesis is that religion has no effect on the mental health of the students at Penn State. The dependent variable here is the presence of a religious affiliation; the independent variable here are the students that self identified in this data.

Most students that were surveyed self identified with some form of religion within the study. From the data, we can see that, as expected, most people identify as Christian. This seems to be the classic science vs religion argument because Psychology Today says that religion may have a negative affect on the health of people, including students. Interestingly enough, the data from the table shows us that most people said that they possessed a neutral stance (34.7%) on their religion’s importance in their life, followed closest by people saying that it plays an important (23.5%) role in their life in the Penn State study. With these two combined, we can see that majority of the people in this sample of Penn State students is either indifferent towards the role of religion in their health. However, Live Science says that religion can be good for health, especially mental health because of the stress reduction from increased levels of coping.

In conclusion, the highest percentage of student seemed to be indifferent to the role of spiritual activity/religion in their lives; this doesn’t support my hypothesis too much. Its like I should reject both my hypothesis and the null hypothesis because religion has a varying impact on the individual and can be the difference in health situation through coping with the stress. The null hypothesis says that there would be no link between mental health and religion at all, which isn’t entirely true from the aforementioned data and studies. Religion definitely can have a positive correlation with health, in some cases, but we all know that correlation doesn’t equal causation. What is the better suggestions is that there is another variable that can be more prominent for causing health to become better, like medicine or frequency of visits to the Health Center. Thus, an alternative hypothesis would likely be adopted to better explain the improvement in mental health of Penn State students.

2 thoughts on “Is Religion Healthy?

  1. Savannah Stalnaker

    Hm, perhaps a different source would help? Or maybe look at a specific religion? Because the study here shows whether or not religion has an impact, not if it is healthy. I know there are specific groups that seem to be overall harmed by specific religions, such as LBGT people being hurt by Christianity. I know I was hurt by my church when my pastor did a sermon that essentially ended with women are temptations and beasts, and generally made me and my divorced mother feel very guilty for merely existing. However, I know others who use religion as a coping mechanism and overcame suicide and addiction through church.
    So, this study is extremely broad and doesn’t quite get to the point you were looking for, as you said. I think just specifying it would be more helpful.

    1. Anthony Mitchell Post author

      Absolutely! I totally understand where you are coming from with this. When I was writing the blog, I realized that i maybe could have found something a little more specific. This is definitely a good article for taking a look at the LGBT community and religion. This other article may be good for seeing where the LGBT community and mental health fall together:

      these numbers and stats may be a bit brutal. At Penn State, it may be better or worse depending on who you ask. i have done a bit of personal research on this because i have LGBTQIA+ friends. I have learned from their stories and experiences.

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