A new study from the well-regarded Pew Research Centre finds that people who are active in religious congregations tend to be happier and more civically engaged than either religiously unaffiliated adults or inactive members of religious groups.The report is based on analysis of survey data from the United States and more than two dozen other countries.
Previous studies have found positive associations between religion and health in the United States. Researchers have shown, for example, that Americans who regularly attend religious services tend to live longer. Other studies have focused on narrower health benefits, such as how religion may help breast cancer patients cope with stress. On the other hand, there are also studies that have not found a robust relationship between religion and better health in the U.S., and even some studies that have shown negative relationships, such as higher rates of obesity among highly religious Americans.
The analysis finds that in the U.S. and many other countries around the world, regular participation in a religious community clearly is linked with higher levels of happiness and civic engagement (specifically, voting in elections and joining community groups or other voluntary organizations). This may suggest that societies with declining levels of religious engagement, like the U.S., could be at risk for declines in personal and societal well-being. But the analysis finds comparatively little evidence that religious affiliation, by itself, is associated with a greater likelihood of personal happiness or civic involvement.