1. In the present systematic review and meta-analysis, high religious and spiritual (RS) practices were negatively associated with the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety and depression.

2. Furthermore, there was a positive association between RS practices and life satisfaction, meaning in life, social relations, and psychological well-being.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

It is expected that one in five seniors will experience some form of mental illness (e.g. depression, anxiety) late in life. An increasing number of studies support the finding that involvement in RS activities enhance mental health status; however, a specific pooled analysis of reviews on the older population is still needed. As a result, the objective of the present systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies was to investigate the association between RS and the prevalence, severity, and incidence of mental health conditions in older adults.

Of 44 180 identified studies, 62 were included in the final meta-analysis from inception to July 2021. Studies that evaluated the association between RS and mental health in people aged >60 years old were included. Studies were excluded if they compared the prevalence of mental health parameters among different religious affiliations without a comparison to no religious identification or atheism. The risk of bias was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale (NOS). A random effects model and sensitivity analysis was performed.

Results demonstrated that high religious and spiritual (RS) practices were negatively associated with the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety and depression. Furthermore, there was a positive association between RS practices and life satisfaction, meaning in life, social relations, and psychological well-being. However, the present study was limited by the inclusion of mostly cross-sectional studies, thereby limiting inferences of causality. Nonetheles, the study’s results provide further support for the utility of RS in enhancing the mental health of older adults.

Click to read the study in Frontiers in Medicine

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