Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 485–505 | Cite as

Religion and Well-Being: The Mediating Role of Positive Emotions

  • Patty Van CappellenEmail author
  • Maria Toth-Gauthier
  • Vassilis Saroglou
  • Barbara L. Fredrickson
Research Paper


Research has consistently shown that endorsing a religion or spirituality is to some extent related to one’s well-being. Common studied explanations tap into the social and cognitive aspects of religion and spirituality. The present research aims at understanding how religiosity and spirituality exert their impact on well-being and investigates the role of a surprisingly neglected mechanism: positive emotions. Two cross-sectional studies using a quantitative approach are presented. In two different contexts (churchgoers in a European country and US university employees interested in meditation), results showed that the relation between religion (Study 1), spirituality (Study 2) and well-being is mediated by positive emotions. Distinguishing between more and less relevant positive emotions in a religious/spiritual context, it was found that the effect was mediated by self-transcendent positive emotions (awe, gratitude, love, and peace) but not by other positive emotions (amusement and pride).


Positive emotions Religion Spirituality Well-being Self-transcendent 



Part of Study 2 data is published in Kok, Coffey, Cohn, Catalino, Vacharkulksemsuk, Algoe, Brantley, and Fredrickson (2013). Study 1was supported by a Doctoral Fellowship from the National Fund for Scientific Research, Belgium to Patty Van Cappellen. Study 2 was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH59615 to Barbara L. Fredrickson. The new analyses for Study 2 were rendered possible by a travel grant awarded by the National Fund for Scientific Research, Belgium FNRS; Excellence travel grant awarded by WBI-world; FSR travel grant for postdoctoral research by Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium to Patty Van Cappellen.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patty Van Cappellen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maria Toth-Gauthier
    • 2
  • Vassilis Saroglou
    • 2
  • Barbara L. Fredrickson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, CB 3270University of North Carolina, Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Université catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium

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