Happiness for Believers? Contextualizing the Effects of Religiosity on Life-Satisfaction

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Abstract / Description of output

Many studies have suggested that higher levels of individual religiosity (as personal belief and as institutional practice) are associated with higher levels of personal life-satisfaction. These findings led to the conventional inclusion of religiosity into quantitative life-satisfaction analyses as control variable and the formulation of policy recommendations about community and personal well-being. However, samples have so far been restricted to within-country analyses disregarding relevant contextual influences. This article investigates the influence of personal religiosity (attitudinal and practiced) on life-satisfaction taking into account the effects of country-levels of the respective religiosity measures. Analysing data from 43 European and Anglo-Saxon societies obtained from the World Values Survey and employing a hierarchical-linear model controlling for relevant socio-economic factors, previous findings are strongly called into question. Positive effects of individual religiosity on life-satisfaction are rendered statistically insignificant once contextualization effects are applied. However, a significant positive interaction effect is found for personal attitudinal religiosity and societal levels of religious belief and practice. Accordingly personal religiosity appears to be associated only with higher levels of life-satisfaction in societies where religiosity is higher on average as well. Instead of an intrinsic importance of individual religiosity, societal conformity mechanisms appear to be conducive to greater happiness levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-593
JournalEuropean Sociological Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


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