The new research led by Temple University researchers has revealed that a person's religiousness - also called religiosity - can offer insight into their risk for depression.
In the study involving 918 participants, lead researcher Joanna Maselko, Sc.D., characterized the religiosity in three domains.
Religious service attendance, which refers to being involved with a church; religious well-being, which refers to the quality of a person's relationship with a higher power; and existential well-being, which refers to a person's sense of meaning and their purpose in life.
They found that those who attended religious services were 30 percent less likely to have had depression in their lifetime.
Maselko said that involvement in the church provides the opportunity for community interaction, which could help forge attachments to others, an important factor in preventing depression.
On the other hand, those who had high levels of existential well-being were 70 percent less likely to have had depression than those who had low levels of existential well-being.
The group with higher levels of religious well-being were 1.5 times more likely to have had depression than those with lower levels of religious well-being.
"People with high levels of existential well-being tend to have a good base, which makes them very centred emotionally," said Maselko.
"People who don't have those things are at greater risk for depression, and those same people might also turn to religion to cope."
She said that those with higher levels of existential-well being have a strong sense of their place in the world.
The study is published on-line this month in Psychological Medicine.