New research has found adopting the core precepts of Buddhism can potentially help reduce the effects of depression.
The results were published last month in the open-access journal PLOS ONE with the team from Chiang Mai University in Thailand studying the known links between neuroticism, stress, and depression.
They then looked at how 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.
Prior research has shown greater neuroticism is associated with a greater risk of depression, both directly as well as indirectly through perceived stress (i.e. how people think and feel after stressful life events).
How did they conduct the research?
The researchers conducted an online survey of 644 adults in Thailand and 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.
Statistical analysis of the survey results 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 five precepts practice makes other people feel safe, as all these behaviors are harmless, and it potentially provides the stressful practitioner with a buffer against depression.” – Study Author, Nahathai Wongpakaran
The researchers note that, while their study suggests potential benefits for the five precepts in the context of depression, it does not confirm a cause-effect relationship.
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.
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.