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Religious coping and depression in multicultural Amsterdam: A comparison between native Dutch citizens and Turkish, Moroccan and Surinamese/Antillean migrants

Background: Depressive patients may derive consolation as well as struggle from their religion. Outside the Western-Christian cultures these phenomena did not receive much empirical exploration. The current study aims to describe how positive and negative religious coping strategies relate to depressive symptoms in different ethnic groups in The Netherlands. Methods: Interview data were derived from the second phase of the Amsterdam Health Monitor, a population based survey, with stratification for ethnicity (native Dutch N= 309, Moroccan 180, Turkish 202, Surinamese/Antillean 85). Religious coping was assessed using a 10-item version of Pargament’s Brief RCOPE; depression assessment included the SCL-90-R and the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Results: The five positive religious coping items constituted one sub-scale, but the five negative religious coping items had to be examined as representing separate coping strategies. Across the ethnic groups, negative religious coping strategies had several positive associations with depressive symptoms, subthreshold depression, and major depressive disorder: the most robust association was found for the item ‘wondered whether God has abandoned me’. Other significant associations were found for interpreting situations as punishment by God, questioning whether God exists, and expressing anger to God. Limitations: Due to the two-phase design and low participation in this urban sample, the non-response was substantial. Therefore, the study focused on associations, not on prevalences. Conclusion: The more or less universal finding about ‘feeling abandoned by God’ may suggest how depression represents an existential void, irrespective of the religious background.