Prayer, Attachment to God, and Symptoms of Anxiety-Related Disorders among U.S. Adults Christopher G. Ellison* The University of Texas at San Antonio Matt Bradshaw Baylor University Kevin J. Flannelly Center for Psychosocial Research Kathleen C. Galek HealthCare Chaplaincy Considerable research has examined the relationship between religion and mental health. This study adds to the literature in this area by addressing two main questions: (1) Is the frequency of prayer associated with symptoms of anxiety-related disorders among US adults? (2) Is this association condi- tional on the nature of individuals’ attachment to God? We examine these questions using data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey (N ¼ 1,511). Results reveal no meaningful associations between the frequency of prayer and anxiety symptoms. In contrast, anxious attachment to God is positively correlated with psychiatric symptoms, while secure attachment to God bears a modest inverse associa- tion with these outcomes (when anxious attachment is excluded from the model). Results also show that prayer is inversely associated with symptoms of anxiety-related disorders among individuals who have a secure attachment to God, but positively associated with these outcomes among those who have a more insecure or avoidant attachment to God. Several study limitations and promising direc- tions for future research are discussed. Key words: religion; prayer; anxiety; mental health; attachment theory; ETAS theory. *Direct correspondence to Christopher G. Ellison, Department of Sociology, University of Texas at San Antonio, One UTSA Circle, San Antonio, TX 78249-0655, USA. Tel: þ 1 512 773 8365. E-mail: [email protected] # The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permis- [email protected] Sociology of Religion 2014, 75:2 208-233 doi:10.1093/socrel/srt079 Advance Access Publication 25 February 2014 208 at Baylor University on June 25, 2014 Downloaded from
Over the past 20–30 years, the body of research on the connections between religion and mental health has grown dramatically. Although there are null and even negative patterns in the literature, most recent studies in this area have reported salutary associations between various aspects of religiousness and mental health outcomes, such as depressive symptoms, psychological distress, and indicators of well-being (e.g., life satisfaction) ( Hackney and Sanders 2003 ; Koenig et al. 2001 ; Smith et al. 2003 ). At the same time, however, religion is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon, and there remains ambiguity over which facets of religiousness are most germane to mental health ( Hill and Pargament 2003 ; Idler et al. 2003 ). Findings involving nonorganizational practices—particularly the frequency of prayer—have been especially puzzling for investigators ( Bradshaw et al. 2008 ; Schieman et al. 2013 ). There are sound reasons to anticipate that persons who pray frequently will enjoy more favorable mental health than others. However, the empirical findings on this point are decidedly mixed. While some studies
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