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Religion and Depression in Adolescence


Fruehwirth, Jane Cooley; Iyer, Sriya; & Zhang, Anwen (2019). Religion and Depression in Adolescence. Journal of Political Economy, 127(3), 1178-1209. PMCID: PMC6613944


Depression is the leading cause of illness and disability in adolescence. Many studies show a correlation between religiosity and mental health, yet the question remains whether the relationship is causal. We exploit within-school variation in adolescents’ peers to deal with selection into religiosity. We find robust effects of religiosity on depression that are stronger for the most depressed. These effects are not driven by the school social context; depression spreads among close friends rather than through broader peer groups that affect religiosity. Exploration of mechanisms suggests that religiosity buffers against stressors in ways in which school activities and friendships do not.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Journal of Political Economy


Fruehwirth, Jane Cooley
Iyer, Sriya
Zhang, Anwen