Religious people are happier than those who don’t actively participate in a faith, study finds
- Pew Research study analyzed survey data from more than two dozen countries
- Examined differences among actively religious, inactive, and unaffiliated people
- The study found people who participate in religion often tend to be happier
People who actively practice a religion may be happier than the rest, according to a new study.
A Pew Research study analyzed survey data from more than two dozen countries to compare the self-reported lifestyles of religious and non-religious people.
Overall, the researchers found actively religious people tend to be happier, though they aren’t necessarily healthier in terms of exercise or obesity rates.
More than a third of actively religious adults in the US (36 percent) described themselves as ‘very happy’ in the surveys, compared to a quarter of both inactive and unaffiliated Americans. Stock image
WHY DO PEOPLE BELIEVE IN GOD?
Greater thinkers have been pondering why people believe in god for centuries.
One popular theory cites ‘cognitive and social adaptations’ as the reasoning behind peoples’ belief in god.
For example, ‘cognitive decoupling,’ or the common phenomenon of attaching behaviors or actions to someone who isn’t in front of us could explain why people are religious.
It is a small leap from being able to imagine the mind of someone we know to imagining an omnipotent, omniscient, human-like mind – especially if we have religious texts which tell of their past actions.
Religious activities make our brains feel good, encouraging us to repeat them.
In addition, household norms tend to encourage people to be religious.
While the link between religion and health may not have been so clear, the findings on self-reported happiness are ‘striking,’ the researchers say.
The study broke religious participation down to three categories are: Actively religious (regular participation), ‘inactively religious’ (claim a religious but attend services infrequently), and ‘religiously unaffiliated’ (people who do not identify with any religion).
More than a third of actively religious adults in the US (36 percent) described themselves as ‘very happy’ in the surveys, compared to a quarter of both inactive and unaffiliated Americans.
In another example, 45 percent of actively religious Australians said they were very happy, while just 32 percent of inactives reported this, and 33 percent of the unaffiliated.
‘And, there is no country in which the data show that actives are significantly less happy than others (though in many countries, there is not much of a difference between the actives and everyone else),’ the researchers note.
Religious people may also tend to make healthier lifestyle choices, often reporting that they smoke and drink less than non-religious people.
But, this doesn’t necessarily make for better overall self-reported health, the study found.
The findings are part of a growing body of research that suggests religious participation has a positive effect on those who actively pursue it.
While the link between religion and health may not have been so clear, the findings on self-reported happiness are ‘striking,’ the researchers say. Overall, the researchers found actively religious people tend to be happier
A separate study published last fall found that religion can help to lessen feelings of loneliness.
‘For the socially disconnected, God may serve as a substitutive relationship that compensates for some of the purpose that human relationships would normally provide,’ said University of Michigan student and lead author Todd Chan at the time the study was published.
The conclusion came from three separate studies involving 19,775 people.
According to the researchers, the feeling of a connection to God may help some people gain ‘a better sense of purpose in life.’