Kevin Flannelly, at the Spears Research Institute in New York, and colleagues assessed data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey to see whether belief in the afterlife was linked to different world views.
He found that positive beliefs about the afterlife (belief that the afterlife means a union with God, a reunion with loved ones, and/or a life of eternal reward or eternal punishment) increased the likelihood of believing that this world is just.
In other words, people who believed in an afterlife were more likely to think that “Anything is possible if you work hard” and that “Everyone starts out with the same chances in life.” They were less likely to agree that “The world is controlled by a few powerful people” or that “Finance is a field where people get rich without making a real contribution to society.”
Flannelly also found that people who believed in a just world had less anxiety and other psychiatric symptoms such as paranoia, obsession and compulsion.
Plugging these results into a statistical model, he found that the lower level of psychiatric symptoms seen in religious people in the Baylor survey can be explained as a result of their belief in the afterlife, moderated by its effects on their beliefs in a just world. He interprets this in terms of Evolutionary Threat Assessment Theory, which hypotheses that hypersensitivity to threats in your environment (real or imagined) is a fundamental cause of many psychiatric symptoms.