Thai study links Buddhist precepts to lower stress levels

People who follow the five main moral precepts of Buddhism demonstrate lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression, according to a research study conducted by psychiatry professors at Chiang Mai University in northern Thailand.

The Science Daily website reported that “the study suggests how people with high levels of neuroticism and stress may be at greater risk for depressive symptoms, while those links could be buffered for people who observe the five precepts of Buddhism – a fundamental system of ethics for the religion’s followers.”

The five precepts of Buddhism guide followers not to kill, not to steal, not to engage in sexual misconduct, not to tell ill-intentioned lies, and not to use intoxicants.

The study “Moderating role of observing the five precepts of Buddhism on neuroticism, perceived stress, and depressive symptoms,” was published by PLOS One, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science at the end of the November.

Its lead author was Professor Nahathai Wongpakaran of Chiang Mai University with collaborations by Phurich Pooriwarangkakul, Nadnipa Suwannachot, Zsuzsanna Mirnics, Zsuzsanna Kövi and Tinakon Wongpakaran.

In pursuit of their hypothesis that Buddhist practices may have a positive effective on depression, Nahathai and colleagues focused on the connections between neuroticism, stress, and depression.

The researchers conducted a survey of 644 people in Thailand. Statistical analysis of the results showed that adhering to the five precepts can buffer the influence of perceived stress on depression. These results suggest that people with high levels of neuroticism and stress may be less likely to develop depressive symptoms if they follow the five precepts closely.

“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 wrote.