Health and happiness could be related to how often one went to religious services and their religious identification, according to the study
How actively a person is involved in religious activities like going to Church on Sundays is linked to how happy they are, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Centre. The study was conducted in 35 countries and the findings revealed positive associations between health and religion. It was found that those who go to the Church often also tend to be involved in other civic work than those who are either religiously unaffiliated or inactive members.
Positive associations between health and religion are also not new to the United States as research has shown in the past that Americans who are regular about attending religious services live longer. It also had a correlation to how much they smoked or drank since these were considered sinful activities. However, it did not translate to better overall health. Based on the findings, 96% of the actively religious individuals avoid frequent drinking while 85% of them said that they don't smoke currently, while only 64% of them said they exercise regularly. Religious activity was not linked to how often they exercised or with obesity.
For the study, Pew divided the participants into three categories based on their religious affiliation and engagement in activities. There was one group that was actively religious, they identified with a particular religion and participated in services at least once a month. The second group included those who were inactively religious, who identified with a particular religion but attended services less frequently. And the third group included the unaffiliated ones who did not identify with any religion.
“Actively religious people in the US are more likely to say they are very happy, that they vote in national elections and that they’re more engaged in community life in the sense that they belong to at least one nonreligious organization,” said Conrad Hackett, associate director for research and senior demographer for Pew Research Center.
As many as 36% of actively religious individuals in the US said they were very happy while only 25% unaffiliated and inactive (religiously) adults said they were very happy. Among the religiously active Americans, 58% reported that they were part of one voluntary charity organization at least, while 51% percent of inactively religious adults and 39% of the religiously unaffiliated had similar responses.
The study also concluded that societies where there was a decline in religious engagement, like the US, could be at risk for decline in personal and societal well-being too. The researchers further explained that the numbers aren't the final word on whether religious services improve people's lives. It could be the other way round that "certain kinds of people tend to be active in multiple types of activities (secular as well as religious), many of which may provide physical or psychological benefits. Moreover, such people may be more active partly because they are happier and healthier, rather than the other way around."
In many of the surveyed countries, religious activity was linked to benefits but the causal connection was unclear, the researchers wrote. The more religiously involved adults could have better social networks that make it easier to find work and handle stress. While others, who were less happy or unhappy, were struggling in various parts of their lives.
There is a long history of social science research that correlates that religiously affiliated people also volunteer for other civic engagements, Ellen Idler, a sociology professor at Emory College and an adviser on the report, told HuffPost.
"You could say it is a common kind of affiliative, prosocial, service orientation ― finding ways to feel compassion and to serve others is a teaching of all faiths,” Idler said.