Atheists, gays, and depression: I finally got around to seeing the movie Milk. One theme that emerged is that many homosexuals are suicidal. Mr. Milk said that most of his lovers had thoughts of killing themselves because of how society rejects gay men.
Reader Jason Malloy suggested in the comments section of previous post that atheists might be more depressed than believers. I'm a relatively happy person, but my dreariest times were certainly the years when I was an atheist. Anyway, let's tackle the depression issue for both of these groups at the same time.
GSS respondents were asked how much they felt down and blue in the past month. Answers ranged from "all of the time" (=1) to "none of the time" (=6) so the higher the score, the more depression-free the person.
Mean lack of depression score
Straight men 5.04
Gay men 4.86
Doesn't believe in God 4.91
No way of knowing 4.86
Some higher power 4.92
Believes sometimes 4.54
Believes but has doubts 4.95
Knows there is a God 4.90
Gay men do suffer from more depression than straights, although the two-tenths of a standard deviation difference is not large. Milk probably exaggerated the problem, although there was more homophobia in the 70s than in 2000 when these survey questions were asked.
Belief, on the other hand, seems to be unrelated to depression. The only group reporting greater sadness is "believes sometimes." We saw in the last post that atheists suffer less from mental health problems overall; it is probably the case, as readers have suggested, that it takes a strong mind to be an atheist, so there might be few non-believing psychotics. Some of those folks even think they are God, right?
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