Godly Sadness — Biological Correlates of Spirituality & Depression

T. W. Moore
5 min readDec 30, 2021
Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

In recent years, the United States has become increasingly secular. According to a recent Gallup poll, church membership in the United States has fallen below the majority for the first time in the nation’s history (Jones, 2021). However, in numerous studies, religious and spiritual inclinations have shown themselves to be coping mechanisms for offsetting stressful life situations (Koenig, 2010). In addition to traditional religious orientations in America, more and more individuals are referring to themselves as spiritual but not religious. For this reason, spirituality is acknowledged as a significant influencer in the therapy room.

The question remains as to whether the reason that spirituality is so effective for mental health outcomes results from the type of individual who seeks therapeutic assistance. Could it be that the connection between psychological suffering and spiritual growth indicates that individuals who are prone to develop depression are the very ones who have a strong spiritual inclination? This is a question addressed in the article “Genetic Correlates of Spirituality/Religion and depression: A Study in Offspring and Grandchildren at High and Low Familial Risk for Depression” by Micheline R. Anderson, Lisa Miller, Priya Wickramaratne, Connie Svob, Zagaa Odgerel, Ruixin Zhao, and Myrna M. Weissman that appeared in the journal Spirituality in Clinical Practice. (Anderson et al, 2017).

According to the researchers, “a common developmental path between suffering and increased spirituality may point to a unified psychological process, which has, in turn, a common underlying physiology with a genetic foundation” (Anderson et al, 2017). The purpose of the research performed was to provide a deeper understanding of this correlation. The authors hypothesized that there would be associations between single-gene correlates for spirituality and single-gene correlates for depression.

Methods for Researching Spirituality and Depression

To begin, the researchers identified 4 possible candidates of single-gene predictors of spirituality and depression. The researchers cite the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) which has an “association with social function, capacity for n=bonding, and related…

T. W. Moore

Author of “A Voice From Inside” | JW PIMO | Writing about Psychology, Mental Health, Religious Trauma & Jehovah’s Witnesses.