Religion, Purpose in Life, Social Support, and Psychological Distress in Chinese University Students
- 600 Downloads
We examined the relationship between religious involvement and psychological distress and explored the mediating effects of social support and purpose in life in university students in western, mid-western, and eastern China. Cross-sectional survey of a representative sample of 1812 university students was conducted. The Purpose in Life scale, Duke Social Support Index, and Religious Commitment Inventory-10 were administered, along with Kessler’s Psychological Distress Scale. Structural equation modeling was used to test two models of the mediation hypothesis, examining direct, indirect, and total effects. Model 1 (with direction of effect hypothesized from religiosity to psychological distress) indicated that religious involvement had a direct effect on increasing psychological distress (β = 0.23, p < .01) with minor mediated effects. However, Model 2 (with direction of effect hypothesized from psychological distress to religiosity) indicated strong indirect protective effects of religiosity on psychological distress through purpose in life and social support (β = −.40, p < .01). The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that psychological distress increases religious involvement, which then increases purpose in life and social support that then lead to lower psychological distress.
KeywordsReligion Purpose in life Social support Psychological distress Mainland China
This study was partly supported by the National Natural Science Funds of China (81060242) and National Undergraduate Scientific and Technological Innovation Project (2013-11). The funders did not involve in study design, data analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of this manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Butcher, J. N., Dahlstrom, W. G., Graham, J. R., Tellegen, A., & Kaemmer, B. (1989). The Minnesota multiphasic personality inventory-2 (MMPI-2) manual for administration and scoring. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minneapolis Press.Google Scholar
- Chiang, H. (2014). Psychiatry and Chinese history. London: Pickering & Chatto Ltd.Google Scholar
- Feng, X., Yang, X., Yang, Z., Peng, F., Zhang, X., & Koenig, H. G. (2016). Religion and psychological well-being in Chinese college students: Does meaningfulness matter? Journal of Religion and Health (in submission).Google Scholar
- Huang, B., Appel, H. B., Ai, A. L., & Lin, C. J. (2012). Religious involvement effects on mental health in Chinese Americans. Asian Culture and History, 4(1), 2.Google Scholar
- Ivtzan, I., Chan, C. P., Gardner, H. E., & Prashar, K. (2013). Linking religion and spirituality with psychological well-being: Examining self-actualisation, meaning in life, and personal growth initiative. Journal of Religion and Health, 52(3), 915–929. doi: 10.1007/s10943-011-9540-2.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Kessler, R. C., Andrews, G., Colpe, L. J., Hiripi, E., Mroczek, D. K., Normand, S. L., et al. (2002). Short screening scales to monitor population prevalences and trends in non-specific psychological distress. Psychological Medicine, 32(6), 959–976. doi: 10.1017/S0033291702006074.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Kidwai, R., Mancha, B. E., Brown, Q. L., & Eaton, W. W. (2014). The effect of spirituality and religious attendance on the relationship between psychological distress and negative life events. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 49(3), 487–497. doi: 10.1007/s00127-013-0723-x.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Koenig, H. G. (2012). Religion and mental health. In K. D. Koenig, G. Harold, & B. Carson Verna (Eds.), Handbook of religion and health (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Koenig, H. G., Hays, J. C., George, L. K., Blazer, D. G., Larson, D. B., & Landerman, L. R. (1997). Modeling the cross-sectional relationships between religion, physical health, social support, and depressive symptoms. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 5(2), 131–144.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Kovess-Masfety, V., Dezetter, A., de Graaf, R., Haro, J. M., Bruffaerts, R., Briffault, X., et al. (2010). Religious advisors’ role in mental health care in the European Study of the Epidemiology of Mental Disorders survey. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 45(10), 989–998. doi: 10.1007/s00127-009-0143-0.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Law, B. M. (2012). Psychometric properties of the existence subscale of the purpose in life questionnaire for Chinese adolescents in Hong Kong. The Scientific World Journal. doi: 10.1100/2012/685741
- Luo, Y. (2004). On modern social value of psychological regulation: Function of religion. Journal of South-Central University for Nationalities (Humanities and Social Sciences), 24(5), 53–55.Google Scholar
- Miller, L., Bansal, R., Wickramaratne, P., Hao, X., Tenke, C. E., Weissman, M. M., & Peterson, B. S. (2014). Neuroanatomical correlates of religiosity and spirituality: A study in adults at high and low familial risk for depression. JAMA Psychiatry, 71(2), 128–135. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.3067.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Miller, L., Wickramaratne, P., Gameroff, M. J., Sage, M., Tenke, C. E., & Weissman, M. M. (2012). Religiosity and major depression in adults at high risk: A ten-year prospective study. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 169(1), 89–94. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2011.10121823.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Pew Research Center. (2012). More than 600 million in China are religiously affiliated as Chinese New Year 2013 dawns. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from http://www.theweeklynumber.com/1/post/2013/02/more-than-600-million-in-china-are-religiously-affiliated-as-chinese-new-year-2013-dawns.html.
- Phillips, M. R. (1998). The transformation of China’s Mental Health Services. The China Journal 39, 1–36. doi: 10.2307/2667691
- Phillips, M. R., Zhang, J., Shi, Q., Song, Z., Ding, Z., Pang, S., & Wang, Z. (2009). Prevalence, treatment, and associated disability of mental disorders in four provinces in China during 2001–05: An epidemiological survey. Lancet, 373(9680), 2041–2053. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60660-7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Shoesmith, E. (2002). Structural equation modeling with AMOS: Basic concepts, applications, and programming (Vol. 51, pp. 408–409). St. Luke: Royal Statistical Society.Google Scholar
- Stark, R., & Liu, E. Y. (2011). The religious awakening in China. Review of Religious Research, 52, 282–289.Google Scholar
- Worthington, E. L, Jr, Wade, N. G., Hight, T. L., Ripley, J. S., McCullough, M. E., Berry, J. W., et al. (2003). The Religious Commitment Inventory–10: Development, refinement, and validation of a brief scale for research and counseling. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 50(1), 84–96. doi: 10.1037/0022-022.214.171.124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Yeung, A. S., & Kam, R. (2005). Illness beliefs of depressed Asian Americans in primary care. In A. M. Georgiopoulos & J. F. Rosenbaum (Eds.), Perspectives in cross-cultural psychiatry (pp. 21–36). New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.Google Scholar