The Relationships Between Religion and Mental Health


  • W. Larry Ventis

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    1. College of William & Mary
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      W. LARRY VENTIS is a clinical psychologist on the faculty at the College of William & Mary. He also maintains a part-time private practice. He has done research in the psychology of religion, and is co-author (with C. Daniel Batson) of a leading text in the psychology of religion, The Religious Experience: A Social-Psychological Perspective, which has just been revised and republished by Oxford Press.

Department of Psychology, P. O. Box 8795, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23187–8795. Electronic mail may be sent via Internet to


This article reviews the relationships between the means, end, and quest religious orientations as measures of religion (Batson & Ventis, 1982) and measures of mental health. Mental health is defined by seven criteria gleaned from the previous literature: (a) absence of mental illness, (b) appropriate social behavior, (c) freedom from worry and guilt, (d) personal competence and control, (e) self-acceptance and self-actualization, (f) unification and organization of personality, and (g) open-mindedness and flexibility (Batson, Schoenrade, & Ventis, 1993). The literature approached in this way reveals that the relationship depends on both the measure of religion and the measure of mental health. The means dimension shows predominantly negative relationships with mental health indices; the end dimension shows predominantly positive relationships; and the quest dimension (though less thoroughly researched) reveals mixed results. Applications to mental health of these religious orientations and the research findings are discussed.