U.S.

Research continues to show faithful seem to express more happiness

Data shows that religiously active people appear more civically involved, but that physical health isn't necessarily positively correlated.

A Christian worshipper kisses the Stone of Unction.
AP Photo/Leo Correa
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Millions of faithful Muslims around the world are into the last days of their sacred known as Ramadan, bringing believers a feeling of closeness to God. Christians around the world are marking Good Friday, allowing them to gain a "sense of worth," that "only the lord can give," Pope Francis said on X

Religion and faith offer, oftentimes, an unwavering outlet for people to deal with what are some of life's most ultimate concerns about existence and what their fate after death will bring. Faiths bring people together to form community and to help them understand the natural world better. 

In 2019, Pew Research Center released data which found that those who are religiously active in congregations appear to be more civically engaged than those who are not affiliated with a religion — and that they tend to drink less alcohol and smoke less; habits which are often correlated with depression or anxiety caused by real world factors, according to government health experts.

Still, as Scientific American noted, the number those considered to be non believers or unceartian about their beliefs appeared to be growing like we haven't seen before, to the tune of about 500 million to 750 million people globally. 

More Muslim students in the US are getting support during Ramadan
More Muslim students in the US are getting support during Ramadan

More Muslim students in the US are getting support during Ramadan

There's increased awareness that Ramadan means early rising and late bedtimes for many families. Muslim high school students say they are grateful.

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In a comprehensive analysis of the faithful and their wellbeing, Harold Koenig, Dana King and Verna B. Carson's 900 page behemoth text titled "Handbook of Religion and Health," poured over at least 326 articles regarding religion's affect on the body and mind to measure "religiosity and subjective well-being, happiness, or life satisfaction."

The Oxford University Press book found that almost 80% of the studies analyzed for the text reported that those who are religious say they are happier, and just 1% of those involved in studies on the subject said they were less happy. The rest reported mixed feelings, according to Deseret News. But, as the book's review notes, just because it is reported, it can't be seen as definitive causation. 

There are exceptions to religion's positive impacts on lives. 

In that 2019 Pew data, surveys found that religious people were not more likely to rate themselves as being healthier because of the frequency that they exercise. And in most countries, the data found, highly religions people were not "more likely to rate themselves as being in very good overall health," Pew wrote

The U.S. was among the possible exceptions to this, Pew found.  

Organized religion or religious people who are involved with congregations may find that they are less lonely, which may not come as any surprise. This could also factor into how happy a person feels. 

Last year, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy made his alarm known when he released a report on the "devastating impact of the epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the United States."

The notice, released just days before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced the official end of the COVID-19  public health emergency on May 11, 2023, said the crisis of loneliness in the United States had become a major matter of public health. 

"Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being hiding in plain sight — one that can help us live healthier, more fulfilled, and more productive lives," Dr. Murthy said. "Given the significant health consequences of loneliness and isolation, we must prioritize building social connection the same way we have prioritized other critical public health issues such as tobacco, obesity, and substance use disorders. Together, we can build a country that’s healthier, more resilient, less lonely, and more connected."

Depression is economically costly for countries too. Dr. Murthy said last year that loneliness and depression impacted the global economy negatively to the tune of about $1 trillion annually. 

"We've got to be able to have that connection," Dr. Leigh Richardson, a brain health coach. 

She told WBAP, "When we quit doing it, it's like our learned behavior. We unlearn it."

Religious people tend to stick to particular rituals and devotional or contemplative practices like meditation, prayer, worship, and participating in religious institutions, which tend to foster community as part of religious life. 

Being more civically minded in the U.S. though, as it relates to being religious, may have more roots in the systemic prejudices against the agnostic and atheist. By 2021, seven U.S. states still held bans on atheists holding public office, including Tennessee. The state's constitution includes language prohibiting three groups from holding office: those engaging in duels, atheists and ministers. And ministers have recently expressed trouble with anxiety and depression. 

And a 2019 Gallup poll found that atheists and socialists were particularly unfavored in the U.S. among voters, even if a candidate was considered well-qualified.