Recent research published in the journal Social and Behavioral Sciences suggests that having a sense of gratitude and religious motivation may reduce depressive symptoms.
The study, conducted by Dr. Bogdan Tudor Tulbure of West University of Timisoara, located in Romania, involved 113 adult participants. In conducting the study, of particular interest was the possibility of identifying an association between gratitude and depression with religiosity. As noted by Tulbure: “although the inverse relationship between gratitude and depression is well established, it is unclear whether individuals’ religious interest or motivation plays any role is this relationship.”
To measure depression, the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Quick Inventory for Depression Severity – Self-Report were administered. The Gratitude Questionnaire was utilized to assess gratitude, while the Intrinsic Religiousity Scale was administered to measure intrinsic religious motivation (defined as “an individual’s relationship with and commitment to God”).
The study found fewer depressive symptoms among those who expressed higher levels of gratitude, with more depressed participants reporting less gratitude. Perhaps not surprisingly, those participants who identified as being more religiously motivated had a greater predisposition toward gratitude than those participants who identified as being less religious.
While the study did not show a direct link between intrinsic religious motivation and depression, a notable finding was the moderating effect of religious motivation between gratitude and depression. In other words, for those more religiously minded participants, when higher levels of gratitude exist, lower levels of depression are more likely to occur.
“It appears that besides gratitude, intrinsic religiosity represent another important factor that tends to lower participants’ depression level, possibly protecting them from experiencing negative emotions,” Tulbure wrote.
The study author noted several limitations of the study, including the self- selected sample of Romanian adults with access to the internet and an interest in being involved in an online assessment of depression.
However, the results from the current research highlight the potential to assess how a sense of gratitude and religious motivation may protect one from negative emotions. As suggested by Tulbure, “new psychotherapy programs could built (sic) on previously-acquired religious motivation and incorporate short gratitude interventions modules to see whether these new features incrementally contribute to their effectiveness.”