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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Brigham Young University sociologist says data from national surveys show Mormon women are less likely to be depressed than American women in general and show no major differences in overall life satisfaction compared to women nationwide but do score lower on measures of self-esteem.
Sherrie Mills Johnson spoke Thursday at the semiannual meeting of the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists.
Johnson's study used two national surveys of Mormon women. One focused on 1,519 returned missionaries and the other on 617 women who had not served missions. She compared those findings to a 1992-94 national study of 3,075 non-Mormon women in the National Survey of Families and Households. She said all three studies included similar measures of depression and self-esteem.
Johnson's conclusions upheld findings of some earlier studies that Mormons have no more depression than does the nation's population as a whole. Others have concluded, largely based on above-average anti-depressant consumption or on conflicting suicide statistics, that Mormons must have more depression.
Traditional women's roles involved with marriage and homemaking have long been cited as part of the reason for the purported depression, but national women were three to four times as dissatisfied with their work as Mormon women, Johnson said.
Public religiosity was one measure used to contrast the respondents, and it showed both of the Mormon groups scored significantly higher in church attendance than non-Mormon women.
Other studies have found less depression among people with above-average church attendance, and have suggested that it may derive from the support they get from others in their churches.
In terms of life satisfaction, including place of residence, work, friendship, health, family life and financial situation, there were no statistically significant differences in response, she said.
Almost twice as many Mormon women answered they were "very happy" compared to others, she said, with three times as many national women reporting they were "unhappy."
More of the Mormon women were married at the time of the survey than those nationally, and the latter group had experienced divorce at a rate four times higher than their Mormon counterparts, she said.
In measuring self-esteem, Mormon women scored roughly 10 percent below their national counterparts in rating their ability to "do things as well as other people."
She said the findings "could be a reflection of the higher standards that are espoused" by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Some researchers contend that measures used in self-esteem research are biased against orthodox respondents because their language is contrary to religious ideals like humility.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)