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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. As noted by Veenhoven (2002, p. 8): “Social policy makers need both objective and subjective indicators. Though subjective indicators have their limitations, objective indicators also labor under serious shortcomings. For some purposes objective indicators are best suited, for other uses subjective indicators are preferable”.

  2. If an individual’s level of life satisfaction reflects a balance between aspirations and attainments, one can enhance happiness either by increasing attainments, or by lowering one’s aspirations. Many religions tend to do the latter, encouraging people to reduce their aspirations (Inglehart 2010).

  3. The proportion of older population who were religious in the 2011 VNAS is higher than the proportion of people who are religious among Vietnam’s population (all age groups) (30%) in 2011. See more in the world-wide poll conducted by WIN-Gallup International (Gallup International 2012).

  4. Another possible explanation, is similar to that used by Gray et al. (2008), is that while many Vietnamese old people in rural areas do not live with their children or grandchildren, their home close to their children/grandchildren’s home. Furthermore, although the elderly do not co-reside with their children/grandchildren, their children/grandchildren still contribute positively to their material well-being and still maintain contact and visits.

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Correspondence to Tuyen Quang Tran.

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Tran, T.Q., Nguyen, T.Q., Van Vu, H. et al. Religiosity and Subjective Well-Being Among Old People: Evidence from a Transitional Country. Applied Research Quality Life 12, 947–962 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-016-9500-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-016-9500-9

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Elderly
  • Religiosity
  • Subjective well-being
  • Transitional countries