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Anxiety, depressive, and trauma symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic: Evaluating the role of disappointment with God.

Sherman AC, Park CL, Salsman JM, Williams ML, Amick BC, Hudson TJ, Messias EL, Simonton-Atchley S. Anxiety, depressive, and trauma symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic: Evaluating the role of disappointment with God. Journal of affective disorders. 2021 Oct 1; 293:245-253.

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BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to pervasive social and economic disruptions. This cross-sectional investigation aimed to evaluate associations between religious/spiritual factors and mental health symptoms among community residents in a southern US state. In particular, we focused on perceptions of God's distance, a salient aspect of religious/spiritual struggle that has received little scrutiny in health research. METHODS: Participants included 551 respondents assessed during a period of gradual reopening but rising infection rates. Mental health outcomes were assessed using standardized measures of generalized anxiety, depression, and trauma symptoms. Perceptions of an affirming relationship with God, anger at God, and disappointment at God's distance were evaluated using an adapted version of the Attitudes-Toward-God Scale-9. RESULTS: In multivariate analyses that accounted for pandemic-related and demographic factors, positive relationships with God were related to diminished symptoms on all three mental heatlh indices (all p's .003), whereas disappointment with God's distance was associated with more pronounced difficulties (all p's .014). LIMTATIONS: The cross-sectional design precludes causal conclusions. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that perceived relationships with God are tied to clinically relevant mental health outcomes during periods of major upheaval. Disappointment with God's distance may be an important, understudied dimension of religious/spiritual struggle meriting further investigation.

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