Our colleague, Chaeyoon Lim, wrote a summary of his research findings on the connection between religiosity and wellbeing using the amazing Gallup- Healthways data (that has surveyed 1,000 people a day for several years).
Excerpt: “Americans who attend a church, synagogue, or mosque frequently report experiencing more positive emotions and fewer negative ones in general than do those who attend less often or not at all. Frequent churchgoers experience an average of 3.36 positive emotions per day compared with an average of 3.08 among those who never attend. This relationship holds true even when controlling for key demographic variables like age, education, and income.”
Not included in Chaeyoon’s published comments, he also found that, even controlling for other factors like age, gender, race, and the like, Americans would have either had to increase their income by $90,000 a year or gain a college education to have the same increase in life satisfaction as they get from weekly church attendance.”
If you click on the below graph, you can see that all religions and even respondents with no religion frequently reported higher life satisfaction as they went to church more often (controlling for all the standard factors like age, region, gender, income, education, etc.). You may ask how those with no religion attended “church” frequently; most typically in our Faith Matters surveys it was when a religious spouse got their non-religious spouse to accompany them.
Chaeyoon’s work also shows that while all Americans are happier on the weekend, secular Americans experience a drop from Saturday to Sunday in their happiness; religious Americans are happier every day from Monday through Saturday and then their happiness, rather than declining on Sunday, goes up even higher than Saturday.
For other work on the connection between happiness, life satisfaction and religiosity, see American Grace (end of Chapter 12) and “Religion, Social Networks, and Life Satisfaction” by Chaeyoon Lim and Robert Putnam, American Sociological Review 2010, Vol. 75(6): 914–93.