Shutterstock Shutterstock By just about any measure, Western society has grown much more secular in recent decades.
Strong and repeated evidence indicates that the regular practice of religion has beneficial effects in nearly every aspect of social concern and policy. Indeed, preserving religious freedom also has its benefits. Bundled with other freedoms, religious liberty boosts society’s socio-economic progress and reduces violent conflicts. [iv] As a result, societies are more likely to flourish when citizens have this freedom to voice their deepest beliefs and highest ideals. The researchers theorize the many social benefits of a religious community may help keep people healthier for longer. RELATED: 5 Weird Ways Love Can Affect Your Body. Share options.
The health benefits of religion: Are children from religious homes better off? Some claims seem uncontroversial. Who would argue against the idea that certain religious practices--like prohibitions against smoking or heavy drinking--protect health Whooley et al ; Hoffman and Bahr ?
Or that many people derive a sense of comfort from their religious beliefs? That religion can offer some people a way cope with stress? That ritualized worship makes people happier or more satisfied with life.
Some people have even suggested that doctors should prescribe religious activities to their patients.
But is the science compelling? Because most studies linking religion with health and well-being report correlations only. We might suppose the causation works the other way.
Maybe healthier people have an easier time participating in religious activities. Maybe happier people are more motivated to maintain religious ties. As Richard Sloan and his colleagues have arguedmany studies have failed to rule out these alternatives.
And research indicates special conditions under which religiosity can contribute to negative outcomes. For instance, when parents clash over their religious beliefs, their children may be more likely to develop mental health problems van der Jagt-Jelsma et al Does it follow that it's the doctrine or ritual that makes people feel better?
In fact, two recent studies suggest the contrary. For example, researchers Chaeyoon Lim and Robert Putnam analyzed data collected on the religious activities of American adults. The researchers found a connection between attending religious services and a self-reported sense of well-being.
But the effect seemed to depend on friendship. Nor did people who prayed or conducted religious services at home. What seemed really important was a combination of factors: People who met all three criteria were more likely to say they were "extremely satisfied" with their lives.
As Lim notes in a public statement, "To me, the evidence substantiates that it is not really going to church and listening to sermons or praying that makes people happier, but making church-based friends and building intimate social networks there.
When Jibum Kim and his colleagues tracked more than 30, adults over a period of 15 years, they found that members of certain religious groups including Catholics and Jews had a lower risk of death. But when the researchers examined specific aspects of religion, the only one that predicted improved survival rates was religious attendance.
None of the other measures of religiosity -- strength of religious affiliation, frequency of praying, belief in an afterlife, or belief in God -- were linked with lower mortality Kim et al Does this mean that religious people are wrong if they believe their faith makes them feel healthier or happier?
Religions can provide believers with a sense of meaning, and certain religiously-endorsed behaviors like acts of forgiveness, expressions of gratitude, and mindfulness can boost health and well-being Worthington et al ; Gu et al ; Jackowska et al ; O'Leary and Dockray But individuals can find meaning -- and develop healthy coping mechanisms -- outside the domain of religion.
For now, it's not clear that participating in religion makes people any healthier or happier than participating in secular activities. Not if those secular activities feature frequent social contact, friendship, and a sense of belonging.
How do mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction improve mental health and wellbeing? A systematic review and meta-analysis of mediation studies. Parenting style, religiosity, peer alcohol use, and adolescent heavy drinking.
J Stud Alcohol Drugs. The impact of a brief gratitude intervention on subjective well-being, biology and sleep. Lim C and Putnam R. Religion, social networks, and life satisfaction.
American Sociological Review 75 6: O'Leary K and Dockray S. The effects of two novel gratitude and mindfulness interventions on well-being. J Altern Complement Med.Assess the functionalist view that religion benefits both society as a whole and its individuals (33 marks) For functionalists, society is a system of interrelated parts known as institutions, such as religion, the family and the economy.
The researchers theorize the many social benefits of a religious community may help keep people healthier for longer. RELATED: 5 Weird Ways Love Can Affect Your Body. Share options. To the extent that religion no longer reduces crime and addiction, our societies and economies will suffer and governmental force will need to step into the breach.
Nov 09, · Religion plays a fundamental role in our culture. It benefits many aspects of society. Studies have shown that religious practice: Decreases crime Stabilizes society Improves family relationships (Fagan "Why Religion Matters Even") Religion decreases Crime Religious involvement decreases crime.
Religion increases an individual’s level of happiness. In fact, religion is linked to health in general, possibly because religious people have more social support, better coping skills and a more positive self-image than people who don't join faith.
Dec 16, · 4. Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health. Approximately 80% of research on R/S and health involves studies on mental health.
One would expect stronger relationships between R/S and mental health since R/S involvement consists of psychological, social, and behavioral aspects that are more “proximally” related to mental health than to physical health.