Addressing the Myths of Religious Coping in Persons with Mental Illness

Monday, 12 July 2010: 2:45 PM

Sherry Goertz, PhD, CNS-PMH, BC, CNE
School of Nursing, The Pennsylvania State University, Mont Alto, PA
Meg Johantgen, RN, PhD
School of Nursing, University of Maryland Baltimore, Baltimore, MD

Learning Objective 1: Discuss the differences in religious coping in US adults with and without psychiatric disorders provided from a National probability sample.

Learning Objective 2: Debunk the myths about religious coping in relationship to people who have experienced psychiatric disorders to better support coping in patients.


Religion, which includes components of religiousness and spirituality, is an important dimension of coping for many people. However, the breadth and depth of religious coping in relationship to health is not well understood. While aspects of RC seem to be used by persons with mental illness, few studies have been conducted among this group. This study described the prevalence and correlates of RC in US adults, comparing those who have experienced psychiatric disorders with those who have not.

Methods: A secondary data analysis was conducted of the National Co-Morbidity Survey Replication (NCSR; Kessler & Merikangas, 2003), an extensive investigation of the prevalence and correlates of psychiatric disorders in the United States. The study’s probability sample consisted of 4818 adults. Principal components of 5 items were analyzed to construct weighted scores as a Measure of Religious Coping (MeRC). Regression analyses through complex samples general linear model provided descriptive correlational findings comparing respondents who have had specific psychiatric disorders (mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance disorders & impulse control disorders) with those who have not.

Results: The influential demographic correlates of RC were gender, race, age, education, and region of the country which showed moderate effects and explained over 11% of the variance. Significant differences in RC were confirmed from this nationally representative data in a few of the diagnostic categories (i.e. intermittent explosive disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, conduct disorder, nicotine dependence, alcohol abuse and social phobia) after controlling for influential demographics, yet the effect sizes were small.

Conclusion: Overall, there was a high prevalence of RC in US adults but having had a mental illness did not have much influence. The study provided evidence that many persons who have experienced psychiatric disorder use RC in ways similar to people who have not.