, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 199-215

Religion and the Quality of Life

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Abstract

Subjective and objective indicators of the quality of life (QOL) are used to test relationships with religious involvement, participation, and belief. Findings from other studies show religious involvement to be associated with longer life. The percent of religious adherents in a state is correlated with the harmony domain of the QOL and negatively with an indicator of stress. After reviewing relevant previous studies, I examine data from the 1972–1996 General Social Survey Cumulative File. It shows happiness to be associated with the frequency of attendance at religious services, with denominational preference, and with doctrinal preference. Happiness also is associated with certain religious-related beliefs: belief that the world is evil or good but not belief in immortality. In a discussion of these and other findings, hypotheses are suggested to explain and to further explore the effects of religion upon the QOL. Among the conclusions: our conception of the "good life" rests heavily upon Judeo-Christian ideals; religious organizations contribute to the integration of the community, hence enhancing the QOL; since frequency of attendance is imperfectly associated with the QOL, other influences are at work; the doctrine of the religion may attract persons of happy disposition; religion may explain a purpose in life that fosters well-being; and others. I suggest implications of the findings for programs of religious organizations.