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Older people who go to Mass have better mental health, according to new Irish research

It found that those who attended religious services regularly reported lower depressive symptoms.

Image: Shutterstock/Gwoeii

MEN AND WOMEN over 50 who attend mass regularly have better mental health compared to those who don’t attend mass, according to a study from Trinity College Dublin. 

The study involved 6,000 people aged 50 or over, who were interviewed at two-year intervals between 2010 and 2016, and forms part of a larger longitudinal study involving 80,000 participants across Ireland. 

It found that those who attended religious services regularly reported lower depressive symptoms, while those who considered religion important but did not attend a regular religious service had higher depressive symptoms. 

During the six-year period, the majority of participants reported religion as important to them – although it was higher in women at 86% compared to men at 76%. 

However, it did note a slight decline in attendance in both men and women. The figure fell from 91% to 89% in women, and from 89% to 87% in women. 

Researchers noted that those who didn’t attend mass had a smaller social circle and reported more depressive symptoms but said given the age bracket of the participants, it was partly to be expected. 

“We did see that people are attending mass less and that their social networks are getting smaller but that is to be expected in a way, because the study includes people who are in the over-80s and 90s group,” lead author Joanna Orr said. 

Participants were asked to respond to statements along the lines of “I felt depressed in the last few weeks” and to score the statement in relation to themselves. 

“The most important thing to come out of the study is that social engagement is important and that as we go forward, we have to think of ways as a society to enable people to be engaged,” Orr said. 

“That doesn’t need to be religion but for those who are religious we should be making sure they are engaged,” she added. 

The study was published by the peer-reviewed journal Research on Aging.

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