People over 50 who regularly attend mass or other religious services tend to have better mental health compared with those who don't, according to a new study.
A new study by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College shows regular religious attendance was associated with lower depressive symptoms.
However, the researchers stress that the findings also show the relationship between being religious and mental health is "complex".
More than 6,000 adults over the age of 50 were surveyed as part of the study, and the findings have now been published in the Research on Aging journal.
The majority of those people - 86% of women and 76% of men - said that religion was important to them.
According to the study's findings, those who said that religion was very important to them but who did not attend very frequently had worse mental health.
Attending religious services was also connected to having a bigger social network, which in turn had a positive impact on mental health.
TILDA researcher and lead author Joanna Orr explained: “This new research shows that religious belief and practice in the over 50s in Ireland is complexly associated with mental wellbeing.
"Considering the decline in religious participation, belief and practice in Ireland, it is important to assess how this may affect those who are religious."
She added: "Maintenance of religious practice for those who are religious, as well as the maintenance and bolstering of social networks and social participation for all in this age group emerge as important.”
TILDA principal investigator Professor Rose Anne Kenny added: "If religious attendance facilitates older people to maintain a larger social circle with continued social engagement, alternative ways to socialise will be necessary as we develop into a more secular society.”
TILDA's findings are based on observations that took place over six years, from 2010 to 2016.