Religious Involvement, Inflammatory Markers and Stress Hormones in Major Depression and Chronic Medical Illness

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DOI: 10.4236/ojpsych.2014.44040    3,161 Downloads   3,843 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

Background: Religious practices/experiences (RPE) may produce positive physiological changes in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and chronic medical illness. Here, we report cross-sectional relationships between depressive symptoms, RPE and stress biomarkers (pro-/anti-inflammatory measures and stress hormones), hypothesizing positive associations between depressive symptoms and stress biomarkers and inverse associations between RPE and stress biomarkers. Methods: We recruited 132 individuals with both MDD and chronic illness into a randomized clinical trial. First, stress biomarkers in the baseline sample were compared to biomarker levels from a community sample. Second, relationships between depressive symptoms and biomarkers were examined, and, finally, relationships between RPE and biomarkers were analyzed, controlling for demographics, depressive symptoms, and physical functioning. Results: As expected, inflammatory markers and stress hormones were higher in our sample with MDD compared to community participants. In the current sample, however, depressive symptoms were largely unrelated to stress biomarkers, and were unexpectedly inversely related to proinflammatory cytokine levels (TNF-α, IL-1β). Likewise, while RPE were largely unrelated to stress biomarkers, they were related to the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-1RA and the stress hormone norepinephrine in expected directions. Unexpectedly, RPE were also positively related to the proinflammatory cytokine IFN-γ and to IFN-γ/IL-4 and IFN-γ/IL-10 ratios. Conclusions: Little evidence was found for a consistent pattern of relationships between depressive symptoms or religiosity and stress biomarkers. Of the few significant relationships, unexpected findings predominated. Future research is needed to determine whether religious interventions can alter stress biomarkers over time in MDD.

Cite this paper

Bellinger, D. , Berk, L. , Koenig, H. , Daher, N. , Pearce, M. , Robins, C. , Nelson, B. , Shaw, S. , Cohen, H. and King, M. (2014) Religious Involvement, Inflammatory Markers and Stress Hormones in Major Depression and Chronic Medical Illness. Open Journal of Psychiatry, 4, 335-352. doi: 10.4236/ojpsych.2014.44040.

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