Navigation Links
Friends May Be Key to Churchgoers' Happiness

By Ellin Holohan
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Regular churchgoers may lead more satisfying lives than stay-at-home folks because they create a network of close friends who provide important support, a new study suggests.

Conducted at the University of Wisconsin, the researchers found that 28 percent of people who attend church weekly say they are "extremely satisfied" with life as opposed to only 20 percent who never attend services. But the satisfaction comes from participating in a religious congregation along with close friends, rather than a spiritual experience, the study found.

Regular churchgoers who have no close friends in their congregations are no more likely to be very satisfied with their lives than those who never attend church, according to the research.

Study co-author Chaeyoon Lim said it's long been recognized that churchgoers report more satisfaction with their lives. But, "scholars have been debating the reason," he said.

"Do happier people go to church? Or does going to church make people happier?" asked Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

This study, published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review, appears to show that going to church makes people more satisfied with life because of the close friendships established there.

Feeling close to God, prayer, reading scripture and other religious rituals were not associated with a prediction of greater satisfaction with life. Instead, in combination with a strong religious identity, the more friends at church that participants reported, the greater the likelihood they felt strong satisfaction with life.

The study is based on a phone survey of more than 3,000 Americans in 2006, and a follow-up survey with 1,915 respondents in 2007. Most of those surveyed were mainline Protestants, Catholics and Evangelicals, but a small number of Jews, Muslims and other non-traditional Christian churches was also included.

"Even in that short time, we observed that people who were not going to church but then started to go more often reported an improvement in how they felt about life satisfaction," said Lim.

He said that people have a deep need for belonging to something "greater than themselves." The experience of sharing rituals and activities with close friends in a congregation makes this "become real, as opposed to something more abstract and remote," he added.

In addition to church attendance, respondents were asked how many close friends they had in and outside of their congregations, and questions about their health, education, income, work and whether their religious identity was very important to their "sense of self."

Respondents who said they experienced "God's presence" were no more likely to report feeling greater satisfaction with their lives than those who did not. Only the number of close friends in their congregations and having a strong religious identity predicted feeling extremely satisfied with life.

One reason may be that "friends who attend religious services together give religious identity a sense of reality," the authors said.

The study drew a skeptical response from one expert.

"Some of their conclusions are a little shaky," said Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

The study showed that religious identity is just as important as how many friends a person has in their congregation, said Koenig, also a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the university.

The way the data was analyzed ensured that the spiritual factors (prayer, feeling God's love, etc.) would not be significant because people with a strong religious identity were controlled for, or not included in the analysis, according to Koenig.

"Religious identity is what is driving all these other factors," said Koenig. Social involvement is important, "but so is faith."

Lim said the data show that only the number of close friends at church correlates with higher satisfaction with life. The study acknowledged the importance of religious identity, as well as number of friends, suggesting that the two factors reinforce each other.

"Social networks forged in congregations and strong religious identities are the key variables that mediate the positive connection between religion and life satisfaction," the study concluded.

Lim said he wanted to examine whether social networks in organizations such as Rotary Clubs, the Masons or other civic volunteer groups could have a similar impact, but it might be difficult.

"It's hard to imagine any other organization that engages as many people as religion, and that has similar shared identity and social activities," said Lim. "It's not easy to think of anything that's equivalent to that."

More information

The Nemours Foundation has information on spirituality and health.

SOURCES: Chaeyoon Lim, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Harold G. Koenig, M.D., professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, associate professor, medicine, and director, Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.; December 2010 American Sociological Review

Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Teens Poor Health Linked to Fewer Friends
2. Dolphins Get By With a Little Help From Their (Female) Friends
3. Friends, family detect early Alzheimers signs better than traditional tests
4. Friendships, family relationships get better with age thanks to forgiveness, stereotypes
5. Surpasses 100,000 Meal Milestone; Web Site Makes Caring For Friends and Family Easier
6. New "howsthepatient" iPhone App Provides a Simple, Seamless Way to Send Health Updates to Friends and Family
7. Friendship and confiding in spouse eases stress over sexual issues in older men
8. As Mother's Day Nears, Families Mourning Child's Death Plan for Compassionate Friends National Conference and Walk to Remember
9. Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
10. Responds to the National Acadamy of Sciences Report that Millions of Americans Get Sick Yearly from Contaminated Water
11. Oxycontin Abusers Often Rely on Leftover Meds From Friends
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Friends May Be Key to Churchgoers' Happiness
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... In an article ... variables that determine which patients are or are not eligible for bariatric surgery. The ... BMI over 40, are more than 100 pounds overweight, or have a BMI of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 24, 2015 , ... It takes only three to five seconds to make ... the first impression be positive and reflects business values. If a client starts with ... want to return. They will also share their thoughts about a business with others, ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 24, 2015 , ... Cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, family members ... live taping of the next CURE Connections® video series on Saturday, ... Symposium at Georgetown University Hotel & Conference Center in Washington, D.C. , CURE ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... Aided by seed funding from the ... study designed to yield insights into how to detect and treat pancreatic cancer (PC). ... cancer from small, non-coding RNA molecules (ncRNA), genetic material that is present in the ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 2015 , ... Sir Grout of Baltimore is proud to ... award recognizes good companies for excellence in service and a commitment to the ... surface restoration company earned this recognition after a thorough review by the acclaimed ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... Connecticut , November 24, 2015 ... of Acadiana has entered into a multi-year agreement ... imaging centers. This investment will provide the Breast Center ... --> Sectra (STO: SECT B) announces that ... agreement to deploy Breast Imaging PACS in its ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015  Ascendant Solutions, Inc. (Pink Sheets: ... its Board of Directors has declared a special 1 percent ... dividend is payable December 14, 2015, to shareholders of record ... form of additional shares of common stock. ... Board is a strong endorsement of our confidence in Ascendant,s ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... -- iRhythm Technologies, Inc. , a leading digital health care ... will participate in the 27th Annual Piper Jaffray Healthcare Conference at ... . Kevin King , Chief Executive Officer of ... 8:50am ET. --> --> ... . --> iRhythm is a privately held ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: