Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 74 Issue 3 (September 2001), Pages 277-418

Cultural stereotype of the effects of religion on mental health (pages 359-367)

To examine if the religious are more likely to be rated as having a poorer mental health than the non‐religious, 48 Northern Irish undergraduate students completed self‐report measures of religious attitude and mental health under four counter‐balanced conditions: ‘control’ (present yourself ‘as you really are’) and as how ‘religious’, ‘non‐religious’, and ‘mentally ill’ respondents might be thought to answer. The ‘religious’ condition provided significantly higher scores for both the Obsessional Symptom Scale and the Obsessional Personality Trait Scale and significantly lower Psychoticism Scale scores than the ‘non‐religious’ condition. Moreover, significant associations were found between higher scores on the religiosity scale and higher scores on the Obsessional Personality Trait Scale in two of the four conditions (‘religious’ and ‘mentally ill’) and lower scores on the Psychoticism Scale in three of the four conditions (‘control’, ‘religious’, and ‘mentally ill’). These results suggest that the religious are viewed paradoxically as having both aspects of better (i.e. lower psychoticism scores) and poorer mental health (i.e. higher obsessional scores) than the non‐religious. As such, the present findings provide some support for the existence of a powerful cultural stereotype of the religious.

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