Social Psychology Study Says Religion Boosts Happiness During Stressful Times

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that religious people are happier than atheists in societies facing hardship or conflict, HealthDay News reports.

"Difficult circumstances lead more strongly to people being religious. And in religious societies and in difficult circumstances, religious people are happier than nonreligious people,” study leader Ed Diener, a University of Illinois emeritus professor of psychology and senior scientist with the Gallup Organization, said in a news release.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2005-09 Gallup World Poll -- a survey of people in more than 150 countries that included questions about religion, life satisfaction and social support. Overall, the researchers found that religion helps support the emotional well-being of people living without basic necessities like food, jobs, healthcare, security and education.

Religious people living in religious societies were more likely to feel well-respected and experience fewer negative feelings than those who are not religious, the study also found.

In contrast, however, there was no link between religion and happiness for people living in more stable, peaceful nations, the researchers noted. According to the study, there are fewer religious people in more stable societies, and those people are happier than people in regions where there's conflict and hardship, regardless of their religious beliefs.

"In nonreligious societies or more benign societies where many people's needs are met, religious people aren't happier -- everyone's happier," Diener told HealthDay News.

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