Religious involvement seems to correlate with greater happiness and civic engagement, according to a Pew Research Center report published Jan. 31.
In 19 of 26 nations, respondents who attend a religious gathering at least monthly reported being “very happy” at higher rates than respondents who were unaffiliated with a religious tradition or less active in their faith tradition.
Among the nations surveyed, only in Belarus, Ecuador, Hong Kong, Slovenia, South Africa and Spain did active religious adults report lower levels of happiness.
In Chile, the active religious respondents and religiously unaffiliated reported the same levels of happiness.
Active religious adults were also more likely to be engaged in civic life, with more respondents in 18 of 26 nations surveyed affirming involvement in nonreligious organizations and voting in national elections than the religiously unaffiliated or inactive religious.
Only in Australia, Belarus, Chile, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, South Africa, South Korea, Slovenia and Spain did active religious adults report lower levels of civic engagement (based on the two measures noted above) than the religiously unaffiliated and non-active religious respondents.
The exact relationship between religious involvement and happiness or civic engagement requires further investigation, Pew emphasized.
“While the data presented in this report indicate that there are links between religious activity and certain measures of well-being in many countries, the numbers do not prove that going to religious services is directly responsible for improving people’s lives,” the report said. “Rather, it could be 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.”
The full report is available here.