Very Religious Americans Experience Less Worry

According to data gathered by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, very religious Americans—those who say religion is an important part of daily life and who attend services almost every week—are less likely to report having been diagnosed with depression at some point in their life than those who are moderately religious or nonreligious. They are also less likely to experience daily negative emotions, such as worry, stress, sadness, and anger. (Click on image for larger view.)

So does religion cause better emotional well-being? Or is religion more attractive to those with better emotional health? It’s still an open question, but the researchers think:

The best explanation for the observed relationship between religion and more positive states of emotional health may be the most straightforward—that being religious in fact produces a salutary effect on one’s mental health. There are many possible reasons why this could be the case. This might include the interpersonal and social interaction that accompanies religious service participation, the ability of religion to provide explanations for setbacks and problems, the positive benefits of meditative states, prayer and belief in a higher power, and the focus placed on others and charitable activities by many religions.

It’s worth noting, however, that nonreligious Americans experience lower levels of negative emotions than those who are moderately religious. Why would this be? Well, one possibility, the researchers say, is that:

The greater religious ambivalence found in this latter group could be a leading and lagging factor in their more negative emotional health, as these Americans may be less prone to commit to one belief system fully because of their higher rates of depression, stress, and worry.

Category: Polls

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5 Responses

  1. autopoet says:

    the statistical relationship between religion and positive states of mind is an illusion, and the justifications posited are lame

    “The best explanation for the observed relationship between religion and more positive states…”

    …is that the religious are lulled into a false sense of security, a state of passive indifference and a mindset that says ‘someone else is in control.’ of course they’ll tend to say they are happy and not angry, to do otherwise would be to admit of their failure to live up to the expectations that their religion put on them in the first place

    “This might include the interpersonal and social interaction that accompanies religious service participation, the ability of religion to provide explanations for setbacks and problems, the positive benefits of meditative states, prayer and belief in a higher power, and the focus placed on others and charitable activities by many religions.”

    all humans socilaise, always have. explanations? can you provide evidence of one, apart from ‘it was an unidentified invisible being’s will’? meditating on what? how lucky they are that they’re not going to a non existent fire pit when they die, unlike all those people that dare challenge its existence. and the focus placed on childrens’ bodies and the lucrative contracts with the state to provide social services to the disenfranchised

    yep, all good old peace luvin’ bullshit

    and non religious = ambivilent? what a load of crap. lots of non-religious have no doubts at all about what they don’t believe in, and will never change their minds. they worry and get a littles sad sometimes becuase so many of their fellow humans are being decieved by religious delusions

  2. Brandon says:

    Autopoet —-

    I believe the article stated that *more moderately religious* people are ambivalent, not that non-religious people are ambivalent.

  3. John says:

    I was once “very religious”. I didn’t have a lot of worries or concerns because Jesus would return and I would go to heaven. Subsequently I was politically apathetic. All life’s difficult questions were answered for me. I didn’t have to think for myself (the bible or my religious authorities did it for me.) Thus, I had few worries and could go about my life in relative calm.

    Then “my eyes were opened” after my religious authorities were revealed to be mere human beings, flawed and sinful. Now I am very active politically and realize that my abduction into the magical world of evangelical Christianity was a detour along the way to becoming a fully functional adult who takes responsibility for his decisions.

    Marx takes a lot of heat for calling Religion the “opiate” of the peoples, but in retrospect, the guy nailed it. Believing in myths (be it Islam, Christianity or Psychology) is a convenient way to abdicate thinking through the layers of conditioning laid upon us by our parents, preachers and school systems.

    Before one completely dismisses religion and its cognitive restructuring however, one might understand that there are many people out there incapable of becoming fully functioning adults. These people will find ANY structure that relieves them of the laborious and sometimes overwhelming responsibility of THINKING FOR THEMSELVES. Perhaps religion really is the best vehicle for them to participate in until they are capable of evolving into the thoughtful, reflective creatures they are capable of becoming.

  4. autopoet says:

    apologies, i did read it wrong

    nevertheless, ‘ambivalence’ either means ‘waiting for evidence’ or else is merely a euphemism for ‘fence sitting’

    tales of escape from the halls of learned helplessness are easily absorbed into the theme of one’s life, justified neatly as ‘one’s natural path to enlightenment’. sadly, for many of the weak, broken and vulnerable on this planet the stories do not read with the same warm fuzzy feelings. who cares if a handful of self absorbed ex-xtians have integrated their ex-religion, how about standing up for all those who do not have the resources to engineer for themselves such a happy ending?

  5. Glenn says:

    This is a fascinating subject. I am a “very religious” person by most standards, and I am also a learned person, capable of analyzing emotional dependence over against logical and reasoned choices. I come from a family of “very religious” people who are also highly intelligent and willing to ask and answer hard questions. I work in an organization of “very religious” people who are also involved in work of an intellectually demanding nature. My casual observance of these people mirrors the conclusions of this survey. They are virtually all well-adjusted people with positive mental attitudes and are relatively free from worries and crises in comparison to others. None of them I would class as “mental pushovers.”

    It is also true I have spent a major amount of heavy research into religious and factual evidences for my particular brand of religious fervor, as well as a wide spectrum of other religious and non-religious belief systems, and recognize two things about such evidences. The first is that there is a great deal of positive and verifiable evidence for my belief system. The second is that the evidence is not totally conclusive or of equal weight in all areas. In other words, the evidence is abundant, but it is not iron-clad. Another way of saying this is that I have reasoned faith rather than blind faith. In comparing my faith position to that of others, my belief system does provide positive reasons for present personal benefit and also for the benefit of others around me, and I am actively involved both professionally and personally in such endeavors so as to contribute to the improvement of the planet.

    As far as afterlife issues, all belief systems about afterlife involve certain degrees of risk. But in contrast to a failure to adopt an afterlife view at all, my position is again a reasoned risk-taking. If a person rejects afterlife options entirely, he or she will never know if she or he is correct, but will know if he or she is wrong. In contrast, if my belief in an afterlife is wrong, I will never know it. But if it is right, I will be satisfied and happier both now and in that afterlife. This is logically very simple. In conclusion, I also reject the idea of blind faith or no faith. I believe in reasoned faith that is willing to take some risks. Apparently from this survey, I am also reaping some present residual benefits.

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