Who Benefits from Religion?

Abstract

Many studies have documented the benefits of religious involvement. Indeed, highly religious people tend to be healthier, live longer, and have higher levels of subjective well-being. While religious involvement offers clear benefits to many, in this paper we explore whether it may also be detrimental to some. Specifically, we examine in detail the relation between religious involvement and subjective well-being. We first replicate prior findings showing a positive relation between religiosity and subjective well-being. However, our results also suggest that this relation may be more complex than previously thought. While fervent believers benefit from their involvement, those with weaker beliefs are actually less happy than those who do not ascribe to any religion—atheists and agnostics. These results may help explain why—in spite of the well-documented benefits of religion—an increasing number of people are abandoning their faith. As commitment wanes, religious involvement may become detrimental to well-being, and individuals may be better off seeking new affiliations.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Jeana Frost, Adam Galinsky, and Stephanie Wu for their advice and assistance.

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Correspondence to Daniel Mochon.

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Mochon, D., Norton, M.I. & Ariely, D. Who Benefits from Religion?. Soc Indic Res 101, 1–15 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-010-9637-0

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Keywords

  • Religion
  • Religiosity
  • Well-being
  • Apostasy