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Religion and mental health in young adulthood: a register-based study on differences by religious affiliation in sickness absence due to mental disorders in Finland
  1. Kaarina Susanna Reini1,
  2. Martin Kolk1,2,3,
  3. Jan Saarela1
  1. 1Demography Unit, Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies, Åbo Akademi Vasa, Vasa, Finland
  2. 2Demography Unit, Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3Institute for Futures Studies, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kaarina Susanna Reini, Demography Unit, Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies, Åbo Akademi Vasa, Vasa, Suomi 65101, Finland; kaarina.reini{at}abo.fi

Abstract

Background Religiosity and spirituality are known to be positively correlated with health. This is the first study to analyse the interrelation between religious denomination and sickness absence due to mental disorders using population register data with detailed ICD codes.

Methods The follow-up study was based on the entire population born in Finland between 1984 and 1996 (N=794 476). Each person was observed from age 20 over the period from 2004 to 2018. Cox proportional hazards models were applied to analyse the association between religious denomination and first-time sickness allowance receipts for any cause and mental disorder. Mental disorders were categorised as severe mental illness (F20–F31), depression (F32–F33), anxiety (F40–F48) and any other mental disorder (all other F codes). Men and women were analysed separately.

Results The differences in sickness absence due to mental disorder were substantial between religious affiliations. Compared with members of the Evangelical Lutheran state church, the relative hazard for mental disorders among non-affiliated women was 1.34 (95% CI 1.30 to 1.39), while that among women with other religions was 1.27 (95% CI 1.19 to 1.35), after adjusting for own and parental characteristics. The corresponding numbers for men were 1.45 (95% CI 1.39 to 1.50) and 1.42 (95% CI 1.30 to 1.54), respectively. The gradient was larger for severe mental illness and depression than for anxiety and other mental disorders. For any cause of sickness absence, there was no difference between Lutherans, non-affiliated individuals and those with other religions.

Conclusions Epidemiologists and public health practitioners should further examine the association between mental disorders and church membership using administrative registers.

  • SICK LEAVE
  • MENTAL HEALTH
  • PUBLIC HEALTH

Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Other researchers can obtain the data used in the study from Statistics Finland and the Social Insurance Institution of Finland. Service fees apply.

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Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. Other researchers can obtain the data used in the study from Statistics Finland and the Social Insurance Institution of Finland. Service fees apply.

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Footnotes

  • Contributors The manuscript has been read by all authors and all authors fulfil authorship criteria. KSR has participated to the study design, writing the manuscript and performed the analyses. JS has participated to the study design and writing the manuscript. MK has participated to the study design and writing the manuscript. The guarantor of the study is KSR.

  • Funding The authors disclose receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and publication of this article: Stiftelsens för Åbo Akademi Forskningsinstitut, Svenska Kulturfonden and grants 2022-02314 and 2022-02361 from Vetenskapsrådet.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.