Source: Huffington Post
By Carol Kuruvilla
A new Pew Research Center study investigates the connection between religion and well-being.
People who are active members of a religious community are more likely than those who don’t have those strong religious ties to describe themselves as “very happy,” a new Pew Research Center study has found.
After analyzing data from over 20 countries, Pew researchers concluded that people who regularly participate in religious congregations tend to be happier and more civically engaged than their peers who are infrequent attendees or who don’t identify with a religion at all.
These apparent disparities in happiness and civic involvement may suggest that countries experiencing a decline in religious engagement, like the U.S., “could be at risk for declines in personal and societal well-being,” the researchers claimed in the study published Thursday.
But there are a few caveats in the study, which Pew outlined in detailed sidebars in the report. Importantly, just because there seems to be a correlation between religious attendance and certain aspects of a person’s well-being, that doesn’t mean that regular worship service attendance is directly responsible for improving people’s lives. In other words, correlation doesn’t imply causation.
There could be many reasons why actively religious people report high levels of happiness, Pew wrote. For example, it’s possible that regularly participating in worship services offers people social connections and support networks that in turn help make their lives happier ― making it easier to find jobs, for example, or to deal with life’s stresses.
Or perhaps it’s that happier, healthier people have the ability to be active in their religious communities, while people who are unhappy and struggling with health or finances may be more isolated and less able to engage.
“While in many countries religious activity seems to be connected with certain benefits, such as higher levels of happiness, it is unclear whether there is a direct, causal connection and, if so, exactly how it works,” the researchers wrote.