Study: Faith Beliefs Don't Make You Happier

12/09/10

A new study published in the American Sociological Review found that religious beliefs alone do not make a person happier; instead, having a strong social connection at church is what increases life satisfaction. Chaeyoon Lim, sociologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone and American Grace, conducted the study with a representative sample of nearly 2,000 people, mostly Protestants and Catholics, asking them about their life satisfaction in 2006 and again in 2007. Participants who strongly identified with their religion and gained friends in their places of worship during that year reported greater life satisfaction than those who did not. Lim and Putnam said it’s not simply the friendships that cause people to be happier—it’s friendships in the context of the particular social network in a church. When asked if other social networks can create the same effect, Lim and Putnam answered that non-religious contexts do not sport the “same strength of identity nor the same intensity of participation in ritual.” The authors admitted that further study would be useful as to why this study did not turn up the same correlation between happiness and spirituality, i.e. the impact of “feeling God’s love,” but they also said those studies tended to use rather inconclusive measurements of life satisfaction.

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