Social Indicators Research

, Volume 123, Issue 3, pp 837–855 | Cite as

Religion and Life Satisfaction: Evidence from Germany

  • Elisabeth Sinnewe
  • Michael A. KorttEmail author
  • Brian Dollery


We examined the association between religious involvement and life satisfaction using data drawn from the 2003, 2007, and 2011 waves of the German Socio-Economic Panel. Our study provides evidence of an association between attendance at religious services and life satisfaction for respondents residing in West Germany. While social networks partially mediate this relationship for West Germany, there appears to be a remaining direct impact of attendance on life satisfaction. On the contrary, we find no evidence of an association between attendance at religious services and life satisfaction for respondents residing in East Germany.


Germany Life satisfaction Religion Religious participation Social networks 


  1. Adams, R. G. (1988). Which comes first: Poor psychological well-being or decreased friendship activity? Activities, Adaptation & Aging, 12, 27–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Argyle, M. (1999). Causes and correlates of happiness. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  3. Argyle, M. (2001). The psychology of happiness. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Ciarrocchi, J. W., & Deneke, E. (2004). Happiness and the varieties of religious experience: Religious support, practices, and spirituality as predictors of well-being. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 15, 209–233.Google Scholar
  5. Clark, A. E., Frijters, P., & Shields, M. A. (2008). Relative income, happiness, and utility: An explanation for the easterlin paradox and other puzzles. Journal of Economic Literature, 46, 95–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Demir, M. (2010). Close relationships and happiness among emerging adults. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11, 293–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Deutsches Institut für Wissenschaft (2014). About SOEP, DIW Berlin; ( Accessed 27 June 2014.
  8. Di Tella, R., & MacCulloch, R. (2006). Some uses of happiness data in economics. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20, 25–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diener, E., Kesebir, P., & Tov, W. (2009). Happiness. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  10. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychology Bulletin, 125, 276–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Durkheim, E. (1951). Suicide: A study in sociology. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  12. Easterlin, R. A., & Plagnol, A. C. (2008). Life satisfaction and economic conditions in East and West Germany pre- and post-unification. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 68, 433–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ellison, C. G. (1991). Religious involvement and subjective well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 32, 80–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ellison, C. G., Boardman, J. D., Williams, D. R., & Jackson, J. S. (2001). Religious involvement, stress, and mental health: Findings from the 1995 Detroit Area Study. Social Forces, 80, 215–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ellison, C. G., Gay, D. A., & Glass, T. A. (1989). Does religious commitment contribute to individual life satisfaction? Social Forces, 68, 100–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ellison, C. G., & George, L. K. (1994). Religious involvement, social ties, and social support in a southeastern community. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 33, 46–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ellison, C. G., & Levin, J. S. (1998). The religion–health connection: Evidence, theory, and future directions. Health Education and Behavior, 25, 700–720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A., & Frijters, P. (2004). How important is methodology for the estimates of the determinants of happiness? Economic Journal, 114, 641–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ferris, A. L. (2002). Religion and the quality of life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 3, 199–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Francis, L., Ziebertz, H.-G., & Lewis, C. (2003). The relationship between religion and happiness among German students. Pastoral Psychology, 51, 273–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2002). What can economists learn from happiness research? Journal of Economic Literature, 40, 402–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Frick, J.R. (2010). Introduction to the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), DIW Berlin; ( Accessed 27 June 2014.
  23. Frijters, P., Haisken-DeNew, J. P., & Shields, M. A. (2004). Money does matter! Evidence from increasing real income and life satisfaction in East Germany following reunification. American Economic Review, 94, 730–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Froese, P., & Pfaff, S. (2005). Explaining a religious anomaly: A historical analysis of secularization in eastern Germany. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 44, 397–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. George, L. K., Ellison, C. G., & Larson, D. B. (2002). Explaining the relationships between religious involvement and health. Psychological Inquiry, 13, 190–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Greeley, A., & Hout, M. (2006). The truth about convervative Christians. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hadaway, C. K. (1978). Life satisfaction and religion: A reanalysis. Social Forces, 57, 636–643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hadaway, C. K., & Roof, W. C. (1978). Religious commitment and the quality of life in American society. Review of Religious Research, 19, 295–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Haslam, A., Jetten, J., Postmes, T., & Haslamm, C. (2009). Social identity, health, and wellbeing: An emerging agenda for applied psychology. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 58, 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Headey, B., Schupp, J., Tucci, I., & Wagner, G. G. (2010). Authentic happiness theory supported by impact of religion on life satisfaction: A longitudinal analysis with data for Germany. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 73–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Inglehart, R. F. (2010). Faith and freedom: Traditional and modern ways to happiness. In E. Diener, J. F. Helliwell, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), International differences in well-being. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Kahneman, D., & Krueger, A. B. (2006). Developments in the measurement of subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20, 3–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Koenig, H. G., McCullough, M. E., & Larson, D. B. (2001). Handbook of religion and health. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Krause, N. (2006). Religious doubt and psychological well-being: A longitudinal investigation. Review of Religious Research, 47, 287–302.Google Scholar
  35. Krause, N. (2008). Aging in the Church: How social relationships affect health. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press.Google Scholar
  36. Krause, N., & Ellison, C. G. (2009). The doubting process: A longitudinal study of the precipitants and consequences of religious doubt in older adults. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 48, 293–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Krause, N., & Wulff, K. M. (2005). Church-based social ties, a sense of belonging in a congregation, and physical health status. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 15, 73–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Levin, J. S., & Taylor, R. J. (1998). Panel analyses of religious involvement and well-being in African Americans: Contemporaneous vs. longitudinal effects. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37, 695–709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lewis, C. A. (2002). Church attendance and happiness among Northern Irish undergraduate students: No association. Pastoral Psychology, 50, 191–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lewis, C. A., & Cruise, S. M. (2006). Religion and happiness: Consensus, contradictions, comments and concerns. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 9, 213–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lewis, C. A., Lanigan, C., Joseph, S., & De Fockert, J. (1997). Religiosity and happiness: No evidence for an association among undergraduates. Personality and Individual Differences, 22, 119–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lewis, C. A., Maltby, J., & Burkinshaw, S. (2000). Religion and happiness: Still no association. Journal of Beliefs and Values, 21, 233–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lim, C., & Putnam, R. D. (2010). Religion, social networks, and life satisfaction. American Sociological Review, 75, 914–933.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005a). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803–855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005b). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Maselko, J., & Kubzansky, L. D. (2006). Gender differences in religious practices, spiritual experiences and health: Results from the US General Social Survey. Social Science and Medicine, 62, 2848–2860.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. OECD. (2013). Better life index: Country reports; ( Accessed 16 August 2014.
  48. Pollner, M. (1989). Divine relations, social relations, and well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 30, 92–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Religionen in Deutschland (2009). Religionswissenschaftlicher Medien-und Informationsdienst; 31 October 2009 ( Accessed 3 January 2014.
  50. Smith, T.W. (2012). Beliefs about God across Time and Countries, NORC/University of Chicago.Google Scholar
  51. Sobel, M. E. (1982). Asymptotic confidence intervals for indirect effects in structural equation models. Sociological Methodology, 13(1982), 290–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. US Department of State. (2012). International religious freedom report for 2012. Human Rights and Labor: Bureau of Democracy.Google Scholar
  53. Witter, R. A., Stock, W. A., Okun, M. A., & Earing, M. J. (1985). Religion and subjective well-being in adulthood: A quantitative synthesis. Review of Religious Research, 26, 332–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisabeth Sinnewe
    • 1
  • Michael A. Kortt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brian Dollery
    • 2
  1. 1.Southern Cross Business SchoolSouthern Cross UniversityCoolangattaAustralia
  2. 2.UNE Business SchoolUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

Personalised recommendations