Religion beats volunteering, political activism, and community groups as long-term source of joy
Happiness is a big deal to Americans. Our country was founded, in part, on the right to pursue it. But how many of us have actually found the key to true and lasting contentment? According to one recent study, the answer might be found in the pews of our churches on Sunday mornings.
The Washington Post reports:
American Journal of Epidemiology by researchers at the London School of Economics and Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that the secret to sustained happiness lies in participation in religion.
“The church appears to play a very important social role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life,” Mauricio Avendano, an epidemiologist at LSE and an author of the study, said in a statement. “It is not clear to us how much this is about religion per se, or whether it may be about the sense of belonging and not being socially isolated.”
Researchers looked at four areas: 1) volunteering or working with a charity; 2) taking educational courses; 3) participating in religious organizations; 4) participating in a political or community organization. Of the four, participating in a religious organization was the only social activity associated with sustained happiness, researchers found.
The study of 9,000 European adults found that while those who joined political or community groups sometimes experienced a temporary boost in happiness, that feeling was often replaced by increased levels of depression as time went on. Only participation in a religious faith community offered these adults lasting satisfaction.
So if you’re feeling down in the dumps and haven’t been to Church lately, maybe it’s time to give it a try. In a world that so often points us toward costly consumerism or pharmaceuticals with all their side effects as the means to achieve the happiness we consider our birthright, it’s nice to know there is at least one scientifically-approved method out there that carries very little risk and costs us nothing more than time.
Read the rest of the Post’s coverage of the study here