Applied Research in Quality of Life

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 947–962 | Cite as

Religiosity and Subjective Well-Being Among Old People: Evidence from a Transitional Country

  • Tuyen Quang TranEmail author
  • Thanh Quy Nguyen
  • Huong Van Vu
  • Tinh Thanh Doan


Using data from the 2011 Vietnam National Aging Survey, we examined whether religion is associated with subjective well-being (i.e. happiness or life satisfaction) among old people in Vietnam. Our regression analysis provided the first evidence that some religious affiliations are negatively related to happiness. Buddhists and Caodaists are less happy than their non-religious counterparts, even after controlling for several household and individual attributes. However, this negative association does not hold for Christians. This finding is robust to the choice of key covariates and specification of econometric models. Our finding supports the hypothesis that religiosity tends to be linked with unhappiness in transitional countries possibly because in these countries those who are religious often consist disproportionately of new, relatively unhappy recruits.


Aging Elderly Religiosity Subjective well-being Transitional countries 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest in this study.


  1. Ball, R., & Chernova, K. (2008). Absolute income, relative income, and happiness. Social Indicators Research, 88(3), 497–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2005). Happiness and the Human development index: the paradox of Australia. Australian Economic Review, 38(3), 307–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blazer, D., & Palmore, E. (1976). Religion and aging in a longitudinal panel. The Gerontologist, 16(1 Part 1), 82–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown, P. H., & Tierney, B. (2009). Religion and subjective well-being among the elderly in China. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 38(2), 310–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cheah, Y. K., & Tang, C. F. (2013). The socio-demographic determinants of self-rated happiness: the case of Penang, Malaysia. Hitotsubashi Journal of Economics, 54(1), 1–16.Google Scholar
  6. Childs, E. (2010). Religious attendance and happiness: examining gaps in the current literature-A research note. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 49(3), 550–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chyi, H., & Mao, S. (2012). The determinants of happiness of China’s elderly population. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13(1), 167–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cox, H., & Hammonds, A. (1989). Religiosity, aging, and life satisfaction. Journal of Religion and Aging, 5(1–2), 1–21.Google Scholar
  9. Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29(1), 94–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fehey, T., & Smyth, E. (2004). Do subjective indicators measurer welfare? European Societies, 6(1), 5–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ferreri Carbonell, A. (2005). Income and well-being: an empirical analysis of the comparison income effect. Journal of Public Economics, 89(5), 997–1019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ferrer-i- Carbonell, A., & Frijters, P. (2004). How important is methodology for the estimates of the determinants of Happiness? The Economic Journal, 114(497), 641–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ferreri Carbonell, A., & Ramos, X. (2014). Inequality and happiness. Journal of Economic Surveys, 28(5), 1016–1027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gallup International. (2012). Global Index of religiosity and atheism. Zurich: Gallup International.Google Scholar
  15. Gilbert, A., Colley, K., & Roberts, D. (2016). Are rural residents happier? A quantitative analysis of subjective wellbeing in Scotland. Journal of Rural Studies, 44(1), 37–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gray, R. S., Rukumnuaykit, P., Kittisuksathit, S., & Thongthai, V. (2008). Inner happiness among Thai elderly. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 23(3), 211–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 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(1), 73–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hogg, M. A., Adelman, J. R., & Blagg, R. D. (2010). Religion in the face of uncertainty: an uncertainty-identity theory account of religiousness. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14(1), 72–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hoskins, J. A. (2011). What are Vietnam’s indigenous religions? Newletter of the Center for South East Asian Studies, 64, 3–7.Google Scholar
  20. Hung, D. Q. (2010). Nghiên cứu tôn giáo – nhân vật và sự kiện [Religious study: characteristics and facts]. Ho Chi Minh City: Ho Chi Minh City General Publishing House.Google Scholar
  21. Iannaccone, L. R. (1998). Introduction to the economics of religion. Journal of Economic Literature, 36(3), 1465–1495.Google Scholar
  22. IAOS. (2012). About Viet Nam - religion and beliefs, from
  23. Inglehart, R. (2010). Faith and freedom: Traditional and modern ways to happiness. In E. Diener, D. Kahneman, & J. Helliwell (Eds.), International differences in well-being (pp. 351–397). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jiang, S., Lu, M., & Sato, H. (2012). Identity, inequality, and happiness: evidence from urban China. World Development, 40(6), 1190–1200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Khan, A. R., & Tahir, I. (2014). Influence of social factors to the quality of life of the elderly in Malaysia. Open Medicine Journal, 1(1), 29–35.Google Scholar
  26. Kingdon, G. G., & Knight, J. (2007). Community, comparisons and subjective well-being in a divided society. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 64(1), 69–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Koenig, H., King, D., & Carson, V. B. (2001). Handbook of religion and health. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Konopack, J. F. (2007). Religiosity and physical activity as quality of life determinants in middle-aged to older adults. Ph.D, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States, Illinois.Google Scholar
  29. Krause, N. (2003). Religious meaning and subjective well-being in late life. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 58(3), S160–S170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Long, G. T., & Pfau, W. D. (2009). Vulnerability of Vietnamese elderly to poverty: determinants and policy implications. Asian Economic Journal, 23(4), 419–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Matsushima, M., & Matsunaga, Y. (2015). Social Capital and Subjective Well-Being in Japan. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 26(4), 1016–1045.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Morawetz, D., Atia, E., Bin-Nun, G., Felous, L., Gariplerden, Y., Harris, E., . . . Zarfaty, Y. (1977). Income distribution and self-rated happiness: some empirical evidence. The Economic Journal, 511–522.Google Scholar
  33. Myers, D. G. (2000). The funds, friends, and faith of happy people. American Psychologist, 55(1), 56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nguyen, J. K., Fleming, C. M., & Su, J. J. (2015). Does income inequality make us less happy? Australian Economic Review, 48(1), 15–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Norris, P., & Inglehart, R. (2011). Sacred and secular: Religion and politics worldwide. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Okun, M. A., & Stock, W. A. (1987). Correlates and components of subjective well-being among the elderly. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 6(1), 95–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Oshio, T., & Kobayashi, M. (2011). Area-level income inequality and individual happiness: evidence from Japan. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12(4), 633–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Oshio, T., Nozaki, K., & Kobayashi, M. (2011). Relative income and happiness in Asia: evidence from nationwide surveys in China, Japan, and Korea. Social Indicators Research, 104(3), 351–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pargament, K. I. (2001). The psychology of religion and coping: Theory, research, practice. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  40. Pfau, W. D., & Long, G. T. (2010). Remittances, living arrangements and the welfare of the elderly in Vietnam. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, 19(4), 447–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schneider, S. M. (2015). Income Inequality and Subjective Wellbeing: Trends, Challenges, and Research Directions. Journal of Happiness Studies, 1–21.Google Scholar
  42. Sharp, S. (2010). How does prayer help manage emotions? Social Psychology Quarterly, 73(4), 417–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Smyth, R., & Qian, X. (2008). Inequality and happiness in urban China. Economics Bulletin, 4(23), 1–10.Google Scholar
  44. Stutzer, A. (2004). The role of income aspirations in individual happiness. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 54(1), 89–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sumngern, C., Azeredo, Z., Subgranon, R., Sungvorawongphana, N., & Matos, E. (2010). Happiness among the elderly in communities: a study in senior clubs of Chonburi Province, Thailand. Japan Journal of Nursing Science, 7(1), 47–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Truong, S. A., Bui, T., Goodkind, D., & Knodel, J. (1997). Living arrangements patrilineality and sources of support among elderly Vietnamese. Asia-Pacific Population Journal, 12(4), 69–88.Google Scholar
  47. Vail, K. E., Rothschild, Z. K., Weise, D. R., Solomon, S., Pyszczynski, T., & Greenberg, J. (2010). A terror management analysis of the psychological functions of religion. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14(1), 84–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Veenhoven, R. (2002). Why social policy needs subjective indicators. Social Indicators Research, 58(1–3), 33–46.Google Scholar
  49. VNCA. (2012). Vietnamese 10 years of implementation of the Madrid international plan of action on aging. Hanoi: Vietnam National Commitee on Aging.Google Scholar
  50. Wang, P., Pan, J., & Luo, Z. (2015). The impact of income inequality on individual happiness: evidence from China. Social Indicators Research, 121(2), 413–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Witter, R. A., Stock, W. A., Okun, M. A., Haring, M. J. (1985). Religion and subjective well-being in adulthood: A quantitative synthesis. Review of Religious Research, 332–342.Google Scholar
  52. Wooldridge, J. M. (2013). Introductory econometrics: A modern approach (5th ed.). Mason: South-Western Cengage Learning.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tuyen Quang Tran
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thanh Quy Nguyen
    • 2
  • Huong Van Vu
    • 3
  • Tinh Thanh Doan
    • 4
  1. 1.University of Economics and Business, Vietnam National UniversityHanoiVietnam
  2. 2.Institute for Education Quality AssuranceVietnam National UniversityHanoiVietnam
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsAcademy of FinanceHanoiVietnam
  4. 4.University of Economics and Business, Vietnam National UniversityHanoiVietnam

Personalised recommendations