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Depression Research and Treatment
Volume 2012, Article ID 267820, 10 pages
Research Article

Prospective Associations between Religiousness/Spirituality and Depression and Mediating Effects of Forgiveness in a Nationally Representative Sample of United States Adults

1Department of Psychology, Luther College, 700 College Dr., Decorah, IA 52101, USA
2Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard University, Boston, MA 02115, USA
3Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
4Department of Sociology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

Received 3 February 2012; Revised 23 March 2012; Accepted 23 March 2012

Academic Editor: Harold G. Koenig

Copyright © 2012 Loren L. Toussaint et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The present investigation examines the prospective associations of religiousness/spirituality with depression and the extent to which various dimensions of forgiveness act as mediating mechanisms of these associations. Data are from a nationally representative sample of United States adults who were first interviewed in 1998 and reinterviewed six months later. Measures of religiousness/spirituality, forgiveness, and various sociodemographics were collected. Depression was assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview administered by trained interviewers. Results showed that religiousness/spirituality, forgiveness of oneself and others, and feeling forgiven by God were associated, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally, with depressive status. After controlling for initial depressive status, only forgiveness of oneself and others remained statistically significant predictors of depression. Path analyses revealed that religiousness/spirituality conveyed protective effects, prospectively, on depression by way of an indirect path through forgiveness of others but not forgiveness of oneself. Hence, forgiveness of others acts as a mechanism of the salutary effect of religiousness/spirituality, but forgiveness of oneself is an independent predictor. Conclusions regarding the continued development of this type of research and for the treatment of clients with depression are offered.