- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2016

A new survey suggests that religious believers are happier and more integrated into family life than their not-as-religious peers.

Highly religious Americans reported in the Pew Research Center study released on Tuesday that they were “very happy” with life at a 40 percent rate, compared to just 29 percent for less religious respondents.

The higher rates of happiness may be attributable to religion’s adhesive effect on family life. Highly religious respondents were more likely to be “very satisfied” with family life, by a 74 to 67 percent margin, and reported more frequent gatherings with extended family. Highly religious individuals were also more likely to report consulting family before making major life decisions, by a 49 to 42 percent margin.

Religion’s emphasis on selflessness, sacrifice and meaning may also play into the happiness correlation. Highly religious people in the survey were more likely to have volunteered in the past week than less religious people, by a 45 to 28 percent margin, and also reported higher rates of charitable giving to the poor in the last week, by a 65 to 41 percent margin.

The results from the survey held across a variety of religious traditions. For instance, highly religious Catholics were more likely to be “very happy” than less religious Catholics. And the phenomena persist even when controlling for factors such as age, income, education, geography, marital status and parental status.

The survey did not, however, find a correlation between religious belief and several other factors, such as interpersonal interactions, attention to health and fitness, and conscientious consumerism.

Although the highly religious were less likely to report lying in the past week, by a 39 to 45 percent margin, both groups reported similar rates of losing one’s temper. Religion also does not appear to be a boon for fitness, with both groups reporting nearly identical rates of exercising and overeating.

Highly religious respondents were also just as likely as their less religious counterparts to consider factors such as employee wages and environmental impact in their consumption habits. And both groups reported similar rates of recycling.

The Pew Research Center poll is primarily based on a survey of 3,278 participants who were contacted online and by mail. It also draws on a 2014 nationally representative survey of more than 35,000 U.S. adults, who were contacted by telephone.

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