In a study from Chiang Mai University, scientists found that people with high levels of neuroticism and stress may be at greater risk for depressive symptoms, but those links could be buffered for people who observe the five precepts of Buddhism—a fundamental system of ethics for the religion’s followers.
The five precepts of Buddhism guide followers not to kill, steal, engage in sexual misconduct, tell ill-intentioned lies, or use intoxicants.
Previous research found that observing the five precepts can boost well-being and quality of life for the general public, including nonserious followers.
However, it has been less clear whether the five precepts could ease symptoms of depression for those at higher risk.
In the current study, the team focused on known links between neuroticism, stress, and depression.
Prior research has shown that greater neuroticism is associated with greater risk of depression, both directly as well as indirectly through perceived stress—how people think and feel after stressful life events.
They surveyed 644 adults in Thailand. A large proportion of participants were female and people who lived alone, and participants’ religious involvement was unknown, although 93.3% reported that they were Buddhist.
The survey included standard questionnaires to measure each participant’s levels of perceived stress, neuroticism, and depressive symptoms, as well as their observance of the five precepts of Buddhism.
The team showed that observing the five precepts to a high degree appeared to buffer the influence of perceived stress on depression.
These results suggest that people with high levels of neuroticism and stress may be less likely to develop depressive symptoms if they follow the five precepts closely.
The study suggests potential benefits for the five precepts in the context of depression.
More research will be needed to determine whether these findings might extend to the general population of Thailand and beyond, as well as to non-Buddhists.
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The study was conducted by Nahathai Wongpakaran et al and published in PLOS ONE.
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