Religious denomination as a symptom-formation factor of depression in older Dutch citizens

Arjan W. Braam, Caroline M. Sonnenberg, Aartjan T.F. Beekman, Dorly J.H. Deeg, Willem Van Tilburg

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Objectives. The type of symptoms in depression is likely to be influenced by cultural environment. As religion represents an important cultural resource for older adults, it is hypothesised that religious denomination represents a symptom-formation factor of depression in the older generation. Focusing on older Dutch citizens, it is expected that depressed Calvinists report: (1) less depressed affect, (2) more vegetative symptoms, and (3) more guilt feelings, than Roman Catholics and non-church members. Methods and procedures. The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) was used to distinguish depressed (N = 395) and non-depressed (N = 2333) older adults, and to assess depressive symptom-profiles. The Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS) was used to assess major depressive episodes and criterion-symptoms of depression. Results. Depressed Calvinists, especially males, had higher scores on the vegetative CES-D subscale. The same was found for non-church members with Calvinist parents. Among those who have a major depressive episode in later life (N = 84), support was found for all hypotheses. Feelings of guilt were also more prevalent among Roman Catholics. Conclusions. Religious denomination modified the type of symptoms in late-life depression. As a Calvinist background was associated with less depressive affect and more inhibition, there is a risk of underdiagnosis of major depression in older Calvinists in the Netherlands. Copyright (C) 2000 John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-466
Number of pages9
JournalInternational journal of geriatric psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2000


  • Depression
  • Elderly
  • Population
  • Religion
  • Symptom-formation

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