The role of religious advisors in mental health care in the World Mental Health surveys

Vivianne Kovess-Masfety, Sara Evans-Lacko, David Williams, Laura Helena Andrade, Corina Benjet, Margreet Ten Have, Klaas Wardenaar, Elie G. Karam, Ronny Bruffaerts, Jibril Abdumalik, Josep Maria Haro Abad, Silvia Florescu, Benjamin Wu, Peter de Jonge, Yasmina Altwaijri, Hristo Hinkov, Norito Kawakami, Jose Miguel Caldas-de-Almeida, Evelyn Bromet, Giovanni de GirolamoJosé Posada-Villa, Ali Al-Hamzawi, Yueqin Huang, Chiyi Hu, Maria Carmen Viana, John Fayyad, Maria Elena Medina-Mora, Koen Demyttenaere, Jean Pierre Lepine, Samuel Murphy, Miguel Xavier, Tadashi Takeshima, Oye Gureje

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To examine the role of religious advisors in mental health care (MHC) according to disorder severity, socio-demographics, religious involvement and country income groups. Methods: Face to face household surveys in ten high income (HI), six upper-middle income (UMI) and five low/lower-middle (LLMI) income countries totalling 101,258 adults interviewed with the WMH CIDI plus questions on use of care for mental health problems and religiosity. Results: 1.1% of participants turned to religious providers for MHC in the past year. Among those using services, 12.3% used religious services; as much as 30% in some LLMI countries, around 20% in some UMI; in the HI income countries USA, Germany, Italy and Japan are between 15 and 10% whenever the remaining countries are much lower. In LLMI 20.9% used religious advisors for the most severe mental disorders compared to 12.3 in UMI and 9.5% in HI. For severe cases most of religious providers use occurred together with formal care except in Nigeria, Iraq and Ukraine where, respectively, 41.6, 25.7 and 17.7% of such services are outside any formal care. Frequency of attendance at religious services was a strong predictor of religious provider usage OR 6.5 for those who attended over once a week (p < 0.0001); as seeking comfort “often” through religion in case of difficulties OR was 3.6 (p = 0.004) while gender and individual income did not predict use of religious advisors nor did the type of religious affiliation; in contrast young people use them more as well as divorced and widowed OR 1.4 (p = 0.02). Some country differences persisted after controlling for all these factors. Conclusions: Religious advisors play an important role in mental health care and require appropriate training and collaboration with formal mental healthcare systems. Religious attitudes are strong predictors of religious advisors usage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-367
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Early online date2 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Mental health
  • Religion
  • Services use


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