Religion and Well-Being

From Gallup:

PRINCETON, NJ — Very religious Americans of all major faiths have higher overall wellbeing than do their respective counterparts who are moderately religious or nonreligious. This relationship, based on an analysis of more than 676,000 interviews as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, is statistically significant after controlling for major demographic and regional variables.

The findings confirm that the strong positive relationship between religiosity and wellbeing that Gallup previously demonstrated holds regardless of faith. Furthermore, the relationship appears to be largely independent of the proportions of very religious, moderately religious, and nonreligious in each religious group, and it is more closely aligned with the faith itself. Muslims, for example, have a much lower level of wellbeing than do Jews. At the same time, the “wellbeing gap” that exists between Muslims’ and Jews’ most religious and least religious constituencies is roughly the same, even though Jews have fewer very religious identifiers.

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  • I know that the text says that the differences are “statistically significant,” but just what IS the margin of error? I’m only seeing a 4% difference from the high to the low end of each category (with the exception of the Mormon category, a difference which intrigues me), which strikes me as pretty negligible.

  • Joe Canner

    Mark #1, I was wondering the same thing until I noticed that the sample size is 676,000+. You can get almost any difference to be statistically significant with that kind of sample size. In medical research circles (my background) this would be called a “statistically significant but not clinically significant” result. The difference between very religious Mormons and other Mormons might be an exception.

    What I want to know is:

    1. What is a “Very Religous” atheist/agnostic/non-religious person?
    2. Are the differences between the very religious of each religion statistically significant, and, if so, what explains Protestants being at the bottom of the list (aside from atheists)?

  • Joe Canner

    P.S. to Mark– From the article: “For all three reported Protestant groups, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum expected error range is no greater than ±0.5%. For smaller groups of fewer than 1,000 respondents, such as some of those found for Mormons, Jews, or Muslims, error ranges can climb as high as ±6.0 percentage points.”

  • DRT

    Joe Canner#2 – “this would be called a “statistically significant but not clinically significant” result. ”

    Thanks for articulating that for me.

  • CGC

    Statistics and science proves what? I suspect somebody will come along later with a statistics that suggest that people are better off without religion.

    It was just a few years ago when I saw some research done by the medical community that could not explain it but said patients did better when people prayed for them vs. those who did not pray for them (and some of this study was by test groups that did not even know themselves if someone was praying or not praying for them).

    Recently, I saw some new study that showed that prayer made absolutely no difference at all in people recovery from sickness or surgery. What boggles my mind is theists will use positive evidence to support their faith and atheists will use the negative studies to support atheism.

    It is just me or does anybody else see a problem in how both groups are using science to promote their own cause as if science is what legitimates faith or deligitimates it.

  • Jeremy

    CGC – That little problem has a name. It’s called “Confirmation Bias.” We all do it on some level as we usually stop researching something once we’ve read something that’s told us what we wanted to hear. I think most of us in the non-scientific community tend to give bigger weight to singular studies than they were ever meant to have.

  • Amos Paul

    Do you guys honestly think that *Gallup* is an organization attempting to push a pro-religious agenda?

  • CGC

    Hi Amos,
    There are some studies that come from an agenda driven viewpoint but this what not the point I was making at all. All I was saying was groups who use these studies are often agenda driven or have a view that science will somehow prove their worldview. I understand why atheists do this but I think religion in general or Christianity speicifically is barking up the wrong tree doing this as if science is what really rules or defines reality in the end.