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Survey explores the relationship between Mormon women and depression

Do Mormon women struggle with depression more than American women in general? If so, why? These are the questions that Religion News Service’s Jana Riess sought to answer through a portion of her Next Mormons Survey.

The findings were based on a survey question that asked respondents to agree or disagree with the statement, "I have taken or am currently taking medication for depression or another mental health issue." Riess published her findings on Religion News Service on Tuesday.

While the survey was inconclusive in fully understanding whether Mormon women struggle with depression more than other women, the survey did provide insight into the characteristics of LDS women who have taken medication for depression at some point in their lives.

The survey showed that age and employment didn't carry significant weight in whether or not the respondent had taken medication for depression but significant differences were found in relation to church activity and belief in church teachings.

"Women who consider themselves 'very active' Mormons are less likely to report taking medication for depression (22.5 percent) than women who are "not at all active" in the church (35 percent)," Riess reported. "Along those lines, about a quarter of women who believe 'all or most Mormon teachings' have taken medication, compared to more than a third who doubt or find some Mormon teachings hard to believe."

Marital status also seemed to play a role in whether one had taken medication for depression as 41 percent of respondents who were divorced have taken medication for depression while 34 percent of those who have never been married responded that they also have taken medicine for depression. Meanwhile, just 23 percent of those who are married have been treated medicinally for depression.

Riess presents several explanations for why more Mormon women (27 percent) suffer from depression than Mormon men (14.5 percent).

"And if so, is it because the culture places unrealistic expectations on their shoulders to be perfect moms with flawless bodies and unwavering testimonies?" Riess said. "Is it because more Mormons are stay-at-home moms than American women more generally, and are therefore cut off from the social networks and self-esteem that can come from paid employment? Both of these have been put forward as possible explanations."

But Riess explains that previous surveys have been inconclusive, even conflicting, regarding the percentage of Mormon women who suffer from depression as opposed to the national average. She also adds that, according to Harvard Medical School, women "are about twice as likely as men to develop major depression" than men, Mormon or not.

Read more about the survey’s findings here.