About the Author(s)

Acim Heri Iswanto symbol
Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health Science, University of Pembangunan Nasional Veteran Jakarta, Jakarta, Indonesia

Anna Gustina Zainal symbol
Department of Communication, University of Lampung, Bandar Lampung, Indonesia

Adkham Murodov Email symbol
Department of Fundamentals of Spirituality, Tashkent State Pedagogical University named after Nizami, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Yousef A. Baker El-Ebiary symbol
Faculty of Informatics and Computing, University Sultan Zainal Abidin, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia

Dildora G. Sattarova symbol
Department of Social Sciences, Tashkent State Dental Institute, Tashkent, Uzbekistan


Iswanto, A.H., Gustina Zainal, A., Murodov, A., A. Baker El-Ebiary, Y. & G. Sattarova, D., 2022, ‘Studying the role of Islamic religious beliefs on depression during COVID-19 in Malaysia’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 78(4), a7567. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i4.7567

Original Research

Studying the role of Islamic religious beliefs on depression during COVID-19 in Malaysia

Acim Heri Iswanto, Anna Gustina Zainal, Adkham Murodov, Yousef A. Baker El-Ebiary, Dildora G. Sattarova

Received: 28 Mar. 2022; Accepted: 23 Apr. 2022; Published: 12 July 2022

Copyright: © 2022. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Depression is one of the most common psychological disorders and many people in the world suffer from this disorder. Every year, thousands of suicides occur because of depression. Whilst anxiety is considered a common phenomenon of our era, it has existed throughout human history. Nevertheless, there have always been signs of religion and religious beliefs in the study of human communities and the history of civilisations. Despite rapid advancements made in solving the physical problems of human beings, the science of medicine has not taken an effective step toward solving humans’ psychological issues, although they play a considerable role in the emergence of physical diseases. Religion can affect the mental health of individuals and society through various mechanisms. In general, the role of religion and religious beliefs on the health of the individual and society is very important. A great deal of peace of mind can be achieved based on faith and moral beliefs and practices. People with religious beliefs have an optimistic viewpoint towards life, and their religious beliefs turn a dark life into a bright one even when all hopes are lost in the battle of life. Given the importance of this issue, the present study aimed to evaluate the role of Islamic religious beliefs of Muslim students on depression during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in Malaysia. A field study was performed on 3500 Muslim students of Kuala Lumpur in 2021 by simple random sampling method. Data were collected using standardised questionnaires, and data analysis was performed in SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences). According to the results, people with a higher level of religious beliefs suffered less from depression, which confirmed the negative and significant relationship between Islamic religious beliefs and depression. According to the results of multiple regression analysis related to the components of the independent variable in SPSS, all components of Islamic beliefs had a significant role in reducing COVID-19-induced depression. Meanwhile, action required (t-value: 2.30; beta: 0.55) and religious activities (t-value: 2.24; beta: 0.54) had the most effect on reducing depression induced by COVID-19 disease.

Contribution: The findings of this study could be used to treat people’s depression during the COVID-19 pandemic by taking their Islamic religious beliefs into account.

Keywords: Muslim; Islam; religious beliefs; depression; COVID-19.


Unpredictability and uncertainty about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) controls our time, and serious risks of the disease have turned it into one of the most stressful situations. These issues, along with misinformation about the disease, can increase concerns in society (Coiro et al. 2021). Quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic is the most common and best technique to prevent the spread of the disease; however, quarantine may adversely affect the psychological health of the individual, depending on the conditions of the environment and type of infectious disease. In other words, it may cause psychological problems for patients. In fact, studies have shown the negative effects of the disease prevalence on the psychological health of individuals, such as increased symptoms of depression and anxiety, stress disorders, insomnia, anger and fear (Ahuja 2021). The spread of the virus, which has necessitated keeping physical distance to prevent the incidence of the disease, seems to have led to a sense of loneliness and decreased social relationships and support. Overall, these conditions can cause or intensify depression symptoms in people. On the other hand, other characteristics of the disease, including the long survival of coronavirus on surfaces, the relatively easy transmission of the disease, lack of certain control time, lack of definite treatment and high mortality rates, have caused a highly stressful situation in the community (Amirkhan 2020). Messages received about the growing number of COVID-19 patients increase people’s stress and concerns by threatening their safety and peace of mind. Therefore, it seems that special attention must be paid to psychological issues in society in addition to preventing the transmission of the disease and managing other worrying circumstances.

Meanwhile, people react differently to the condition and experience various levels of depression, anxiety and stress (Achour et al. 2021). As mentioned, some people might show depression symptoms whilst others might have anxiety symptoms, and identification of determinants of these reactions and their intensity can help decrease them. In this respect, amongst the factors that can play a role in different emotional reactions of people are their personality traits. Studies have shown that personality traits are amongst the factors affecting depression, anxiety and stress (Verma, Verma & Kumar 2021). In modern communities, some of the basic problems of most community members include anxiety and concerns. People have clearly stated this fact on occasion and in situations that have arisen and have expressed their dissatisfaction with their situation. In some cases, their modes, actions and types of encounter reveal their psychological anxiety and discomfort (Kumaraswamy 2013). These conditions are more obvious in some people in some periods of life, such as adulthood, mainly because there are more internal conflicts and contradictions in political, religious, social and economic dimensions. In addition, young people deal with a type of inner anxiety and restlessness due to their curious nature, norms that do not match their pure spirit and needs related to this period; these anxieties are mostly not diagnosed or diagnosed very late in life (Hall et al. 2006).

However, this does not mean that people do not have similar problems in other periods of their lives or that all young people deal with these issues during their adulthood. As mentioned before, the youth period is a suitable situation for the expression of inner emotions, as some people might be in the best state of mind in their adulthood due to the observance of some factors (Woolery et al. 2004). To date, scientists, authors and experts of the field have written much about the identification of factors of human mental insecurity and their prevention and treatment, expressing that decreased interest in life, isolation, feelings of sadness, low self-esteem, restlessness, feelings of failure in life and hopelessness are more observed in nonreligious people than in religious people (Abdel-Khalek 2010). Without a doubt, religious people have better moral and psychological conditions compared to nonreligious individuals. In addition, religious people feel more relaxed during difficult situations in life. Nevertheless, attention to religion is not just to calm oneself; in fact, religious people believe that they will have a life after this material life. However, religious people really feel at peace because they have found the objective and real answer to their inner turmoil and infinite desire and will reach their true destination in the position of knowledge and perception in connection with God and by focusing on the origin of creation. According to the Qur’an: ‘Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah’ (Surah Ar-Ra’d, Ayat 28).

The reality is that peace is reached when one pays attention to God, and attention to no other topic will provide this amount of calm and peace, even though all natural destinations (the pursuit and use of which are also human necessities) are attractive, and their achievement is imagined to generate peace. However, their limited existence will not create true peace for human beings even after achieving them. Those who are unaware of the reality of the universe and follow paths without attention to God are described in the Qur’an, as follows:

[A]nd (as for) those who disbelieve, their deeds are like the mirage in a desert which the thirsty man deems to be water; until when he comes to it he finds it to be naught. (Surah An-Nur, Ayat 39)

In this Qur’anic metaphor, all the efforts and motivations of nonbelievers and their destination in life are likened to a mirage that a thirsty person from afar thinks is water and moves towards it in a hurry, only to see that they are mistaken and there is nothing but the desert which has created a false view. All of those who follow their natural and material destinations without attention to God will have the same situation.

Depression is identified as a type of concern and restlessness in all periods of life. Without a doubt, human beings are always caught in a kind of uneasiness and mental anxiety in achieving their desires and goals, and the optimal attractions prevent them from reaching peace before reaching their destinations. Even after reaching the destination, material intentions are such that they do not provide people with true peace (Malone & Wachholtz 2018). This is mainly due to the limitations of the system of nature and the infinity of human tendencies and desires. People will find peace only when their goals are achieved in the light of attention to God and the relationship with God, who has an infinite existence. In this hypothesis, even the use of natural and material benefits, which are mentioned as virtues in the Holy Qur’an and are recommended by God, will be a real cause of peace. However, limited natural affairs can never meet the unlimited human desires and can only respond in an unreal and relative manner, which destroys real calmness when achieved and provides a temporary response.

University students are at risk of emergence of psychological symptoms at the onset of COVID-19. The closure of universities was one of the first and most basic measures taken to prevent the spread of the disease at the beginning of the pandemic in Malaysia, similar to many other countries. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) prevalence has had a wide range of psychological and social effects on people at individual, social and international levels. At the individual level, some people feel helpless against the disease and have a constant and extreme fear of contracting the disease. As a result, its prevalence can cause significant psychological stress and might have unfavourable effects on students’ psychological health and learning. Nevertheless, studies show that belief in religious teachings has a significant effect on people’s peace of mind (Abdel-Khalek 2010).

The holy Qur’an, which is the greatest miracle of the Prophet Muhammad and which includes all of the guidance required by human beings in life, is the most complete instrument for achieving peace of mind. According to the Qur’an: ‘He it is who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers that they might have more of faith added to their faith – and Allah’s are the hosts of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is knowing, wise’ (Surah Al-Fath, Ayat 4).

Evidently, having peace in life is the first source of happiness, and those who are deprived of this blessing are also deprived of the blessing of happiness and will never experience happiness. Nonbelievers in the world are struggling with imaginary thoughts and many worries. Therefore, they are constantly battling with life problems and are always confused about choosing the right path of life and making decisions, and they experience despair and depression. Contrary to what this type of person thinks, believers are free of these thoughts and only focus on one goal, that is pleasing God. Therefore, they do not care whether people are happy or angry with them. In addition, they are never confused and always have peace of mind.

According to the Qur’an: ‘Those who believe and do not confuse their faith with shirk, they are the ones who find security and they are guided’ (Surah Al-An’am, Ayat 82). Moreover, the Qur’an says: ‘Oh, surely the friends of Allah have nothing to fear, nor shall they grieve’ (Surah Yunus, Ayat 62), ‘the ones who believe and are God-fearing’ (10:63).

In addition, the Qur’an, which is a healer for all pains, introduces itself as a factor to soothe and strengthen the heart. Whoever loves this holy book more and reads it persistently will be more at peace. For instance, the holy Qur’an says: ‘And those who disbelieve say: why has not the Qur’an been revealed to him all at once? Thus, that we may strengthen your heart by it and we have arranged it well in arranging’ (Surah Al-Furqan, Ayat 32). This ayat implies that gradually reading the Qur’an and persevering in it strengthens the heart and soul. When human beings have a strong soul, nothing can disrupt their peace of mind.

Hoping for a bright future is one of the factors that make people calm. Hope gives people happiness, whereas hopelessness gives a person a feeling of despair, failure, weakness and inability. A hopeless person is always defeated whilst a hopeful individual conquers all things. Because of hope, one expects to benefit from pleasures and blessings and has a sense of satisfaction at heart. In addition, hope makes a person try. In this regard, the Qur’an says: ‘O my sons! Go and inquire respecting Yusuf and his brother, and despair not of Allah’s mercy; surely none despairs of Allah’s mercy except the unbelieving people’ (Surah Yusuf, Ayat 87). Without hope, especially hope for divine mercy, humans cannot have a good and peaceful life. In fact, hopeless people have no mental balance in life. Therefore, those without hope never taste happiness in life and are always in an anxious and stressful state. In order to make progress in all aspects of life, one must have a positive attitude toward life. Otherwise, hopelessness prevents people from dedicating efforts to what they want to do. Hope is a driving engine for achieving goals and desires.

The holy Qur’an considers those who are disappointed in God’s mercy to be infidels because despair of God’s mercy means that there is a limit to God’s power. Therefore, people seem to react differently to critical situations depending on their religious characteristics. It is notable that the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the prevalence of depression in people due to a decrease in social interactions. Treatment of physical illnesses and mental disorders in different societies is not limited to the use of classical medical methods and is sometimes not possible for cultural and economic reasons or because of the incurability of the disease. Many societies, depending on their culture and beliefs, use some special rituals of that culture to treat the physical and mental pain of their patients. Amongst the organised methods that are based on psychological principles, it is of great importance in treating diseases and reducing pain, anxiety, depression and stress caused by them. Healing is through the use of religious faith and belief in healing by God. Research in this field shows a significant increase in the speed of recovery or better tolerance of symptoms in patients with physical and mental illnesses who believe in God’s mercy and religious principles.

Depression is a problem that can affect people of all ages. There are several known causes for this disorder in people. Students are amongst the most vulnerable people to depression, so more attention should be paid to their issues and problems. The aetiology of depression as well as other mental disorders in various biological, psychological, social and cultural dimensions has always been discussed and researched. If we pay attention to the main symptoms of this disorder, which include feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and low self-esteem, we find that depressed patients, especially those whose biological factors are less involved in the development of depression in the monotheistic worldview to varying degrees of the Lord of the Worlds, is far away and immersed in worldly attachments and false religious beliefs. With this background, the present study aimed to evaluate the role of Islamic religious beliefs on depression during COVID-19 in Malaysia in 2021.


This was an applied study in terms of objective and descriptive-correlational regression research regarding methodology. The statistical population included 3500 Muslim students in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data were collected using the 20-item Islamic Beliefs Questionnaire by Golzari (2000) and COVID-19 Depression Inventory by Alipour et al. (2020) by simple random sampling method. At the end, 3426 questionnaires were returned and analysed. The rest of the questionnaires were excluded from the analysis for reasons such as incompleteness. The Islamic Beliefs Questionnaire evaluates six components including action required, avoiding haram [forbidden things], practising as recommended, avoiding abominations, doing religious activities, considering religion in decision-making, and making life choices. Moreover, the COVID-19 Depression Inventory assesses two psychological and physical components. Data analysis was performed in SPSS using Pearson’s correlation coefficient and multiple regression. In total, 42% of questionnaires were filled by women, and the rest (58%) were completed by men. Moreover, 24% of the statistical population had a BSc, whereas 43% and 33% had an MSc and PhD, respectively. Furthermore, 36% of the subjects were single, and 64% were married. Regarding field of study, 53% were studying in human resources disciplines whilst 24% and 23% were studying in engineering and basic sciences disciplines, respectively.


Firstly, the relationship between the research variables was assessed using Pearson’s correlation test in SPSS (Table 1). The correlation coefficient was estimated at −0.467 at a 0.05 significance level. In other words, COVID-19-induced depression symptoms decreased with an increase in the subjects’ Islamic beliefs.

TABLE 1: Test of the correlation between research variables.

Table 2 shows the result of multiple regression analyses of research variables. According to the results, the entire regression model was significant (as p < 0.05). In addition, Islamic beliefs explained 20% of the variance of COVID-19-induced depression. In other words, Islamic beliefs significantly predicted COVID-19-induced depression.

TABLE 2: Multiple regression analysis.

Table 3 shows the multiple regression analysis results related to the components of the independent research variable. According to the results, all components of Islamic beliefs had a significant effect on the reduction of COVID-19-induced depression. In this respect, action required (t-value: 2.30; beta: 0.55) and doing religious activities (t-value: 2.24: beta: 0.54) had the most effect on the decrease of COVID-19-induced depression symptoms, compared with the other components.

TABLE 3: Multiple regression analysis of the independent variable.


Becoming sick or being hospitalised always causes much stress and anxiety in the patient, especially if a person is exposed to an unknown disease such as COVID-19. The Holy Qur’an states, ‘Hearts are calmed by the remembrance of God’ (Surah Ar-Ra’d, Ayat 28). Thus, one of the factors that has played a very important role in calming people and preventing mental disorders is faith in God. Relying on God reduces the worries related to illnesses, gives patience in times of calamities and enables a person to tolerate the long-term complications of any disabilities by accepting the divine will, thus preventing excessive concerns that may aggravate the physical and mental conditions of the individual.

There is an inclination towards sacred and worshipable truths and realities in human nature. The principle of knowledge and attraction to God is rooted in the existential structure and manner of human creation, and it is not possible to change it. Religion is an integrated system of beliefs and practices related to sacred matters, a set of forbidden things and matters of reverence. This innate need that comes from within is especially significant because it satisfies the human need to have a strong support. This denotes a support that can be used in all events of life and that can be relied on to feel calm and secure. Religion is humans’ relationship with the highest or most powerful value. In Islamic teachings, the one who exercises the greatest power in human beings is manifested as God.

Religion has historically been one of the most effective shelters against anomalies. Undoubtedly, human beings face all kinds of events over time and do not achieve many of their desires and aspirations. They suffer from depression and physical and mental disorders. Depression is a debilitating complication that all people may experience in the short or long term of their lives. Religious beliefs have a great effect on happiness and reduce depression. Belief in religious teachings brings social support, purposefulness, a sense of acceptance and hope. In addition, religious activities have functions that ultimately increase happiness and thus reduce depression. In expressing these functions, we can mention such things as feeling connected to a very powerful and holy God, love, equality and a sense of collective solidarity. Depression is a psychological condition experienced by almost all human beings at varying degrees throughout their lives. However, it increases to a level that is recognised as a disorder due to causing anxiety and distress. Humans may experience depression at any point in time and age. Depression is a natural human emotion in response to the perception of a situation. When accompanied by excessive and extreme stress, it is considered pathological and leads to disability, confusion and anxiety disorders.

Insufficient information and predictions about different types of diseases and viruses, especially COVID-19, have intensified this anxiety. These diseases have put extreme physical, psychological, cultural, and social pressures on people. In this regard, in recent decades, infectious diseases have caused some behavioural and cultural changes in societies. One of the recent anxieties in the general population has been due to the novel coronavirus, which has increased depression symptoms in some people. The scientifically proven reality is that the materialistic and godless world has dealt with increased psychological diseases and anxieties, one of the most prevalent of which is depression. This type of disorder is especially observed in various age groups and different strata of the community. However, depression has various economic, social and cultural causes, roots and contexts, but the discussion of each in detail is by no means the purpose of this article.

According to the results of the present study, all components of Islamic beliefs had a significant effect on the decrease of COVID-19-induced depression symptoms. Meanwhile, action required (t-value: 2.30; beta: 0.55) and doing religious activities (t-value: 2.24; Beta: 0.54) had the most effect on the reduction of depression induced by COVID-19, compared to the other components. In addition, the role of religion in decision-making (t-value: 2.20; beta: 0.52), avoiding haram (t-value: 2.11; beta: 0.51), avoiding abominations (t-value: 2.03; beta: 0.48) and practising as recommended (t-value: 1.99; beta: 0.43) were other factors affecting the decrease of depression caused by COVID-19.


The present study mainly attempted to emphasise the importance of reliance on religious teachings and asking for the help of God to eliminate concerns and anxieties. We discussed this issue by raising a key question, which was: why are nonreligious people less interested in life, seeking isolation, depressed, experiencing low self-esteem and restlessness and feeling defeated and hopeless, compared to religious people? Despite economic hardships, religious people have a more favourable psychological and moral status and have more peace of mind in various living conditions. Without a doubt, one of the achievements of deepening religious and divine beliefs in human life is that it strengthens patience and self-control and consequently increases social resilience.

Because attention to spirituality is in accordance with the creation of humans, the principle of communication with the spiritual matters, and above all, communication with God is a natural thing. Therefore, paying attention to these matters makes people calm. However, some spiritual characteristics play a significant role in improving safety and creating peace for human beings.

In this regard, an example would be saying prayers. Prayer is a practical act of worship that is considered a manifestation of divine remembrance. In this respect, the Holy Qur’an says: ‘Keep up a prayer for my remembrance’ (Surah Ṭā ḥā, Ayat 14). In this ayat, God considers prayer as a means for remembering him. Given the specific conditions of these prayers, it is clear that a practice that starts with special cleaning and ends with special readings and appropriate movements, denying everything other than God and showing only attachment to God, will be a great example of remembering God. Therefore, prayer is a means of reviving the remembrance of God, and remembrance of God is a means of peace and tranquillity for human beings. Therefore, one should seek help from prayer in achieving peace. In general, seeking help from prayer is a command of God. In this regard, the Qur’an says: ‘And seek help in patience and as-salat [prayer]’. In this interpretation, seeking help from prayer along with patience is absolutely commanded by God.

Not only is patience in life necessary to solve any problem, but it is also a necessity for achieving any goal and creating peace. In addition, the importance of patience and its effect on the decrease and elimination of spiritual and material problems is undeniable. In the mentioned ayat, prayer is mentioned as a helper of human beings and is considered an equivalent of patience in this regard. According to this Qur’anic instruction, humans can receive help from these two great sources of support to deal with any problem. In addition, direct prayer and supplication to God is recommended by the Holy Qur’an. In this regard, the Qur’an says: ‘And your Lord says: Call upon me, I will answer you!’ (Surah Ghafir, Ayat 60). This ayat is both a command to pray and a promise of response and acceptance. On the one hand, praying is the blossoming of devotion, humility and love for the holy essence of God, which in itself is a source of peace and gives hope to humans in problems and troubles, as well as achieving goals and aspirations that are sometimes not normally achieved. If a person asks for something from God by adhering to certain conditions and purity of heart, it will happen, unless the request is unreasonable or not good for them.

The results of the present study show the importance of giving more attention to Islamic teachings. Depression is one of the most important challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused multiple challenges for people in the world. According to the results of this study, people with higher Islamic beliefs suffered less from depression symptoms.


The authors thank Van Lang University who partly funded this research.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

The authors contributed to the design and implementation of the research, to the analysis of the results and to the writing of the manuscript.

Ethical considerations

This article followed all ethical standards for research.

Funding information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available within the article.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.


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