Taking a broad, international approach to this complicated topic, Pew Research Center researchers set out to determine whether religion has clearly positive, negative or mixed associations with eight different indicators of individual and societal well-being available from international surveys conducted over the past decade. Specifically, this report examines survey respondents’ self-assessed levels of happiness, as well as five measures of individual health and two measures of civic participation.2
By dividing people into three categories, the study also seeks to isolate whether religious affiliation or religious participation – or both, or neither – is associated with happiness, health and civic engagement. The three categories are: “Actively religious,” made up of people who identify with a religious group and say they attend services at least once a month (sometimes called “actives”); “inactively religious,” defined as those who claim a religious identity but attend services less often (also called “inactives”); and “religiously unaffiliated,” people who do not identify with any organized religion (sometimes called “nones”).3
This 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.
Are religious people people happier, healthier or more civically engaged? We examined international data for eight different indicators of well-being to find out. https://t.co/ZDMwlWwmh8
— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) February 1, 2019