Following the five precepts of Buddhism, the core code of ethics for the religion’s adherents, may help to mitigate the linkages between neuroticism, stress, and the development of depressive symptoms, according to a recent study. The research team, led by Nahathai Wongpakaran of Thailand’s Chiang Mai University, publishes their findings in the online, peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE on November 30, 2022.
The five precepts of Buddhism state that one should not kill, steal, participate in sexual immorality, lie with evil intent, or use intoxicants. Evidence from the past demonstrates that everyone, from ardent believers to casual admirers, can benefit from adhering to the five precepts. Whether or not the five tenets can alleviate depressive symptoms in those who are at a higher risk has been less evident.
For this inquiry, Wongpakaran and coworkers explored the connections between neuroticism, anxiety, and depression. Increased neuroticism has been linked to an increased risk of depression, both immediately and indirectly. This study surveyed 644 persons in Thailand using online questionnaire between the end of 2019 and the end of 2022. Respondents’ levels of anxiety, neuroticism, and depressive symptoms, in addition to their adherence to Buddhism’s five precepts, were measured using standardized questions included in the survey.
Analysis of the survey data indicated that adhering to the five tenets to a high degree acted as a buffer against the effect of perceived hardship on depression. These findings show that those with higher levels of neuroticism and stress who adhere strictly to the five commandments may be less prone to experience depressive symptoms. While the study’s findings offer promise for the five precepts in the setting of depression, the authors emphasize that causality cannot be established at this time.
Many of the participants were women and single adults, and nothing was known about their religious affiliations beyond the fact that 93.3% identified as Buddhists. Whether or if these results hold true for the general population in Thailand and beyond and for non-Buddhists will require further study.