The Correlation Of Religion And Happiness

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This literature review looks at why religious individuals are happier than non-religious individuals and explores the mechanisms that are involved in the process.


Happiness or subjective well being (SWB) can be defined as an overall increased satisfaction with life due to an abundance of positive life experiences an individual has while minimizing negative ones (Diener, 2013; Ryan & Deci, 2001; Lyubomirsky et al., 2005). Factors such as income, employment, marital status, education and social networks all add to one’s SWB as does religion. (Green & Elliot, 2009; Rizvi & Hossain, 2016).

Numerous studies have demonstrated and have identified religion as having a positive effect on SWB regardless of these factors (Arghababaei & Blachnio, 2014; Green & Elliot, 2009). Religion has also been found to have a positive effect on psychological well being and overall health for the estimated 84% of the world population who are religious (Religion Statistics and Information, 2020; Azar 2010; Green & Elliot, 2009; Snoep, 2007; Mochon & Areily, 2010).

This literature review will look at why religious individuals are happier than non-religious individuals and will explore the mechanisms involved in the process.

Literature Review

Much of the research conducted has been captured using self reporting questionnaires via the World Values Surveys, Gallup World Poll and National Opinion Research and Religious Orientations Scales to poll participants about their current life satisfaction, how often religious services are attended, individual prayer habits and how important God/Gods are in the lives of individuals, mental and physical health (Lun & Bond, 2013; Denier et. al., 2011; Rizvi & Hossain, 2016). Religious practice has been positively correlated with having purpose in life, a strong social support network of like minded individuals and better physical and mental health which in turn increases one’s SWB and overall quality of life (Aghababaei & Blachnio, 2014; Denier et. al., 2011; Rizvi & Hossain, 2016; Stavrova et al., 2013).

Religion and social support

Denier et, al., (2011) study of 455,104 participants concluded that religious social support helps to increase SWB. There is a commonality in religious support networks in which shared activities as well as morals and ethics are upheld and valued (Rizvi & Hossain, 2016).

Lim & Putnam (2010), further echo this with a research with 3,108 adults and concluded that church participation and friendships created in religious congregations do increase life satisfaction because of the sense of belonging that is formed when participating in mutually enjoyed religious services. These bonds created help to improve well being for individuals due to the connectedness of attending frequent church services or meaningful congregational activities like bible study groups (Lim & Putnam, 2010). Having such a supportive network and being an active congregational member aids in the formation of one’s social identities thereby increasing one’s SWB and life satisfaction (Stravovra et al., 2013).

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Religion and eudaimonic happiness

Another reason why church goers are happier can be linked to the fact that religion gives purpose and meaning to one’s life thereby providing edudainomic happiness (Aghababaei & Błachnio, 2014; Denier et, al., 2011). Eudaimonic happiness is developed by following one’s purpose in life and living according to one’s true virtues. Religion

Religion and coping via prayer

Religion seems to have positive impacts on health by those who practice it.

Our happiness impacts our physical health. Increased happiness has been found individuals who observe and practice religious activities.


Although religion plays a significant role in the lives of those who practice it, further research is needed to find out if religion actually makes people happy or if happy people are just simply more open to believing in religious theologies. (Graham & Crown, 2014). Furthermore, there are limitations to this study as there is a need for cross-cultural studies since current research is primarily focused on Europe and the United States as well on the main religions (e.g., Christians, Muslims, etc.). (Arghababaei & Blavhrio, 2014). Additionally, each of the major religions, like Catholicism, have different sects or branches in different regions of a country which is not distinguished in any of the literatures, thus cross cultural studies are needed to further analyze this hypothesis.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2S+) communities are not clearly reflected, compare or studied in terms of their religiosity and happiness. Considering that religious institutions continue to be conservative in their beliefs, how happy are their LGBTQS+ religious members? This is an area that requires inspection.

Lastly, data used in all the studies reviewed was cross sectional in nature. Snapshot answers were produced via self reporting questionnaires of their feelings on happiness and religion at the time. Longitudinal studies are needed to observe if happiness in religious individuals lasts over long period of time using the same variables.

Based on the literature reviewed, religion does correlate to SWB, physical and psychological well being which supports the notion that religious individuals are happier than non-religious individuals (Snoep, 2007).

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The Correlation Of Religion And Happiness. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from
“The Correlation Of Religion And Happiness.” Edubirdie, 21 Feb. 2022,
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