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Religion and Well-being: Assessing the Evidence
The relationship between religion and wellbeing is widely and frequently reported. Academic studies published in peer-reviewed journals regularly confirm the widespread belief that ‘religion’ is good for ‘well-being’.
But what do we mean by ‘religion’ and what do we mean by ‘well-being’? Neither term is exactly self-explanatory.
This report evaluates the evidence from nearly 140 academic studies conducted over the last three decades examining the relationship between religion and well-being in a wide range of countries and contexts.
It clarifies the key terms, showing how ‘religion’ has been used to cover a multitude of subtly different concepts (e.g. religious affiliation, subjective religiosity, religious belief, religious group participation, and religious personal participation), as has ‘well-being’ (e.g. subjective well-being, mental health, physical health, and health supporting behaviours).
By doing so the report not only clarifies the extent to which religion is good for well-being, but begins to explain what this means, adding detail to the big familiar picture.
Ultimately it confirms that big picture – religion is indeed good for well-being – but by showing the nuances of that relationship, Religion and Well-being hopes to inform the debate about how society should capitalise on this important resource.
Nick Spencer is Research Director at Theos.
Gillian Madden is a former research intern at Theos. She is currently completing a MA in Christian Leadership (St Mellitus College), and read Politics and International Relations at Macquarie University (Sydney).
Clare Purtill is a former research intern at Theos. She read Theology and Religion at Durham University and has an MA in Christian Theology (Catholic Studies).
Joseph Ewing is a former research intern at Theos. He read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University