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.

Where Does Your State Rank in Well-Being?

According to a recent report from the American Human Development Project, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., have the highest levels of well-being in the United States, while West Virginia, Arkansas, and Mississippi have the lowest. The report determined the rankings of the country’s states and congressional districts based on their residents’ ability to live a long and healthy life, their access to knowledge, and their capacity to maintain a decent standard of living.

To see how your state compares, check out these handy maps (click on image for larger view):

Comparing Beliefs on Evolution in Three Countries

Angus Reid Public Opinion has just released the results of a poll conducted last year that asked Americans, Canadians, and Britons which of two statements comes closest to their views on the origins and development of human beings. (As the National Center for Science Education notes, the wording of the choices is similar but not identical to the statements Gallup uses.)
Here are the results in a handy little chart (click on image for larger view):

And here are the U.S. results broken down by region:

What Will Life Look Like in 2050?

Pollsters at The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press called more than 1,500 Americans to ask them what life will be life 40 years from now.
Among those polled, 41 percent said they believe Jesus will have returned to earth by then (58 percent of white evangelical Christians, 32 percent of Catholics, 27 percent of mainline Protestants, and 20 percent of those who are religiously unaffiliated), while 46 percent of Americans dismiss the idea. Notably, 59 percent of those with no college education say Jesus will return, while only 35 percent of those with some college education and 19 percent of college graduates agree.
In total, almost two-thirds of Americans think religion in the United States will be about as important in 40 years as it is now, while 30 percent think religion will become less important.
In terms of scientific advancements, most Americans are optimistic, with 71 percent believing a cure for cancer will be found, 66 percent thinking artificial limbs will outperform real ones, and 63 percent expecting astronauts to have landed on Mars by 2050. Half say that there will definitely or probably be evidence that humans are not alone in the universe.
About 80 percent think computers will be able to carry on conversations like humans 40 years from now, while 42 percent say it is likely that scientists will be able to tell what people are thinking by scanning their brains. About half think scientists will have brought an animal species back from extinction through cloning, and 48 percent say humans cloning is probable.
Half of Americans, however, don’t expect improvements in the environment.
Overall, 64 percent of those surveyed said they are optimistic about their life and future—a number that’s down from 81 percent in 1999.

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