Prevalence and Predictors of Mental Health Programming Among U.S. Religious Congregations

Published in: Psychiatric Services [Epub September 2017]

Posted on on September 20, 2017

by Eunice C. Wong, Brad Fulton, Kathryn Pitkin Derose

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Research Questions

  1. What percentage of congregations in the U.S. provide mental health programming?
  2. What congregational characteristics are associated with providing mental health programming?


This study assessed the prevalence of and factors associated with congregation-based programming in support of people with mental illness.


To estimate the proportion of congregations that provide mental health programming, this study reports analyses of survey responses from the 2012 National Congregations Study, a nationally representative survey of religious congregations in the United States (N=1,327). The analysis used multivariate logistic regression to identify congregational characteristics associated with the provision of mental health programming.


Nearly one in four U.S. congregations (23%) provided some type of programming to support people with mental illness. Approximately 31% of all attendees belonged to a congregation that provided mental health programming. Congregational characteristics associated with providing mental health programming included having more members and having members with higher incomes, employing staff for social service programs, and providing health-focused programs. Other significant predictors included engaging with the surrounding community (that is, conducting community needs assessments and hosting speakers from social service organizations) and being located in a predominantly African-American community.


Greater coordination between mental health providers and congregations with programs that support people with mental illness could foster more integrated and holistic care, which in turn may lead to improved recovery outcomes.

Key Findings

Nearly a quarter of congregations in the United States provide mental health programming.

More than 30 percent of people who attend congregations belonged to congregations that provided such programming.

Congregational characteristics associated with offering mental health programming included:

  • Younger and wealthier congregants
  • Older clergy
  • Dedicated social services staff
  • Health-focused education programs
  • Engagement with the surrounding community
  • Located in predominantly African American communities

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