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Eleven years ago, researchers with the Duke Clergy Health Initiative set out to assess -- and hopefully to improve -- clergy health.
The multiyear program, funded by The Duke Endowment, sought to assess and improve the health and well-being of United Methodist clergy in North Carolina.
Health - North - Carolina - UMC - Clergy
It compared the health of North Carolina UMC clergy with that of people with similar demographic characteristics by means of a longitudinal survey, biometric data, focus groups and interviews, as well as a wellness intervention and behavioral health study called Spirited Life.
The study sounded an alarm about the state of clergy health -- it found that UMC clergy had higher rates of diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, angina and asthma than comparable people in the state. It also pointed to higher rates of clergy depression and stress.
News - Discouraging - Life - Intervention - Problems
But the news wasn’t all discouraging. The Spirited Life intervention helped with some physical problems, and researcher Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell finds hope in it for improving mental health as well.
“The Duke Clergy Health Initiative has been going on for 11 years now, and we spent a lot of the beginning trying to figure out what was going wrong,” Proeschold-Bell said. “We did. But then we really turned, in the last four years, to what’s going right.”
Book - Faithful - Fractured - Clergy - Health
In their book “Faithful and Fractured: Responding to the Clergy Health Crisis,” Proeschold-Bell and co-author Jason Byassee present a summary of the research and intervention for practitioners and offer practical solutions based on the initiative’s findings.
Proeschold-Bell and Byassee spoke to Faith & Leadership about the book and its implications. The following is an edited transcript.
Book - Clergy - Struggles - Depression - Stress
Q: In your book, you write about clergy struggles with depression and stress, but you also say that positive emotions can prevent depression and even some physical illnesses. Can you explain why positive mental health is so helpful -- and how...
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