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Variations in Pastors’ Perceptions of the Etiology of Depression By Race and Religious Affiliation


Depression is a major, preventable problem in the United States, yet relatively few individuals seek care in traditional mental health settings. Instead, many choose to confide in friends, family, or clergy. Thus, it is important to discover how clergy perceive the definition of and etiology of depression. The author conducted a survey with 204 Protestant pastors in California. Multinomial logistic regression revealed a statistically significant difference in how depression is perceived based on race. Caucasian American pastors more readily agreed with the statement that depression was a biological mood disorder, while African American pastors more readily agreed that depression was a moment of weakness when dealing with trials and tribulations. Also, mainline Protestants more frequently disagreed with statements about spiritual causes of depression than Pentecostals and non-denominational pastors. The findings suggest that racial and religious affiliational influences shape how pastors view, and ultimately intervene, in the area of depression.

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