It is well established that experiencing high-stress levels contributes largely to depression onset. Now, a new study published in the journal PLOS One found that people who follow the five Precepts are unlikely to develop depressive symptoms, whether experiencing high-stress levels or not. According to the study, this popular and common moral practice among Buddhists may buffer identified links between high-stress levels and depression.

The five precepts guide its users to not kill, lie, steal, abstain from sexual misconduct, and lastly abstain from intoxicants that cloud the mind. While prior research suggests that adhering to the Five Precepts could improve well-being as well as the quality of life among both serious and unserious users on a large scale. However, there is limited knowledge of the five precepts on their potential to ease negative mental health outcomes such as depression, especially for those at higher risk.

In the same way, previous studies have studied the relationship among neuroticism — a likelihood to experience anger, anxiety, self-doubt, and other negative feelings — stress and depression and found evidence of an indirect link between depression and stress.

Study author, Wongpakaran and his team of researchers set out to study this link. Importantly, this is the first-ever study to report on this association. 

Survey Methodology 

To do this, an online survey was conducted in Thailand from December 2019 to September 2020 involving a total of 644 study participants. Participants were given questionnaires to fill out to assess the degree of stress they have felt over the past month, their high or low level of neuroticism, and how they felt psychologically over the past week. The team also checked their adherence to the five precepts of Buddhism.

Over 70 comprised females, the majority were people who lived alone and roughly 93.3 percent were self-reported Buddhists.

Results of the Study

After adjusting for age, gender, and marital status, the results from the survey showed that following the five precepts significantly buffered the effect of stress on depression. In addition, they found that people with high levels of stress that follow the five precepts closely are less likely to develop depressive symptoms.

Above all, the researchers found that closely following these teachings to a high extent buffered greatly the negative impacts of stress on the body.

The researchers note that even though the five precepts are from Buddhist ideology, non-Buddhists may likewise benefit from following this ideology. Pursuing this further, they believe more awareness should be made among the general population — including those yet to experience stress.

“The five precepts practice makes other people feel safe, as all these behaviors are harmless, and it potentially provides the stressful practitioner with a buffer against depression,” the authors conclude in the study.

The researchers, however, recognize the need for further studies to be conducted.

Written by

Medically Reviewed by