Research - Religion, Spirituality & Health
Does Faith Make Us Feel Healthier and Happier?
Goal: This study evaluated the relationship between self-reported religious affiliation, religious service attendance, self-rated health and happiness in an effort to confirm the findings of Shahabi et al. (2002) regarding perceived religiousness and religious service attendance.
The intent was not to test the complete findings by Shahabi et al. (2002) but rather to investigate the finding that self perceptions of religiousness may be used as a reliable proxy for religious service attendance. Additionally this study sought to evaluate the relationship between people who rate themselves as strongly religious and self-rated health and happiness.
Rationale: If healthcare professionals come to understand the importance of a possible relationship between religiousness, health and happiness, the benefits may include enhanced doctor-patient communication and perhaps more religiously meaningful and validating treatment recommendations from medical professionals to patients about whom studies have shown religiousness to be central to their recovery and continued well-being.
Data: The GSS offers a rich selection of religious variables on topics like denomination, religious habits and experiences, spirituality, beliefs and values, among others but not all of these variables were asked every survey year. Using variables for self-rated measures of health, happiness, religious service attendance, and strength of religious affiliation from General Social Survey (GSS) years 1972-2010, the following three primary hypotheses were tested. Three simple bivariate analyses were conducted on four variables asked in all years of the GSS.
H1. Are people who identify as strongly religious more likely to attend religious services?
Results: Data do support this hypothesis and suggests that reporting a strong religious affiliation increases the likelihood that a person will attend religious services once a week or more.
H2. Are people who rate themselves as strongly religious more likely to rate their health positively than those who rate their religious affiliation as not very strong or no religion?
Results: Data do not support this research hypothesis and suggests that reporting a strong religious affiliation does not make a person more likely to report excellent health.
H3. Are people who identify as strongly religious more likely to rate themselves as happier than those who rate their religious affiliation as not very strong or no religion?
Results: Data do support the research hypothesis and suggests that being religious does make a person more likely to report being happy.