AUSTIN, Texas (Christian Examiner) – In some ways the research conducted by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture confirmed what similar studies already have said about the relationship between religion and satisfaction – religious individuals are happier than those with no faith.
Previous studies found happiness was a factor of belonging to religious organizations, largely because of social interaction among congregants and support other members provide. But the Austin Institute study analyzed what effect involvement—measured by attendance at religious services—had on happiness.
"Greater levels of church attendance predict higher life satisfaction even when we account for how important religious faith is in people's lives," according to the report. "This result offers tentative evidence that actual integration into a religious support network through attendance at religious services may in part be responsible for the increased happiness observed among religious people."
Eighty-four percent of those who attend services weekly reported being somewhat or very happy, compared to 77 percent of occasional attenders and 71 percent of persons who never go to worship services.
But the researchers wondered whether commitment alone explained the increase in happiness or if other factors of "belief" were involved.
So they compared people involved with religious organizations with individuals engaged in community groups and projects, and found that "those who attend religious services often are happier than their peers with similar levels of involvement in the community."
The scholars suggested the difference between the two groups points to "certain intangibles—things difficult to measure and account for—that are associated with higher levels of religious commitment. Such things may promote greater happiness via offering a more stable sense of purpose, or an assurance of a benevolent higher power directing the events of their lives."
"Whatever the case, it appears that religious commitment contributes to happiness beyond simply increased social interaction or support," the Austin Institute concluded.