Religion is a better choice for your mental health, according to new research published in the journal Neuropsychologia.
The findings support the view that people with a strong religious identity are more likely to have a healthy brain.
The researchers found that those who identified as Christians were significantly less likely to suffer from depression than those who did not.
“This finding suggests that religious belief is beneficial for the brain,” Dr Mark Pasek, the study’s lead author and director of the Cognitive Neuroscience Unit at the University of Cambridge, told the BBC.
“People who identify as Christians are at higher risk of depression.”
The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess the brain structure of people who had self-reported as Christians.
Researchers found that the brains of those who reported a strong belief in God were significantly more sensitive to the brain’s “connectivity” (a measure of how closely connected a particular region is to the rest of the brain).
The researchers suggest that “connectivities” may be associated with a “higher level of activity” in the brain, which may contribute to the ability to recognise a person’s identity.
This is not the first time that religion has been linked to a healthy mental health.
In a 2015 study published in Psychology Today, researchers found evidence that people who identify with a particular religion were significantly different to non-religious people.
This could be due to differences in how religion is practised, and how people perceive religion in the world.
The findings, the researchers argue, suggest that religion is not only beneficial for our mental health but can help us avoid negative feelings that can affect our health.
“We’re seeing a very positive association between religiosity and healthy cognition,” said Dr Mark Taylor, a senior author of the study and the Department of Psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina.
“What we’re finding is that this association is stronger in religious people, and there are several reasons why.”
The authors suggest that religious beliefs may be more resilient to mental health problems than secular ones.
“Religious belief has a very good track record, especially for people who are not religious,” Dr Taylor said.
“It’s not just a good predictor of mental health; it’s also a very important predictor of physical health.”