Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The effect of religion upon wellbeing in the general population

Welcome back to my blog! In recent posts we have been exploring the exciting topic of how Biblical truth enhances personal wellbeing. We’ve discussed research performed by Teleios through a series of surveys in healthy individuals and ophthalmology patients, as well as a review article regarding religion in the medically ill.

Today we explore another medical literature review that we developed last year regarding the effect of religion upon wellbeing in the general population (internal data). Most all the studies we reviewed evaluated members of the Christian faith.

Our review showed a positive effect on wellbeing from religion in the lives of healthy people who were: > 10 years old, either gender  and either African-American or Caucasian.

Religion improved general wellbeing and also in specific measures such as:
  • sense of community
  • purpose
  • satisfaction
  • hope
  • social relationships
  • ability to forgive

Even more, the findings indicated that the measures typically used to adhere and grow in religious faith also increased wellbeing including:
  • fellowship with other believers
  • scripture study
  • prayer
  • praise
  • outreach in the local community 

Additionally, increased adherence to one’s faith gave even greater benefits on wellbeing!

What does this mean practically? This review helps us recognize that religion, and in this case Christianity specifically, may enhance personal wellbeing generally but its benefit also extends to specific areas of life such as career satisfaction, marriage, family functioning, and socialization.

Why would Christianity provide an improved wellbeing? We don’t know of any studies about this but here’s what we speculate.
  • First, on a spiritual level the confidence of God’s acceptance through faith in the sacrifice of Christ helps remove guilt and insecurity about a person’s relationship with God. The importance of such confidence was indicated in several studies noting that medically ill patients who have a negative, insecure relationship with God suffer with worse wellbeing.
  • Second, in practical daily life the Christian scriptures provide advice on wise living in regards to family life, career, ethical choices, treatment of people in terms of mental mindset and speech (i.e., forgiveness, thankfulness, etc.). The benefits stemming from this advice can be gained by adherence to Biblical principles causing maturity (fellowship with other believers, prayer, praise, service and a Biblical learning process).

Our review demonstrated that religion, and Christianity in particular, may provide enhanced general wellbeing across various age and ethnic groups and specifically in family and social relationships as well as career. More research is needed, however, comparing wellbeing to other religions and among cultures.

To consider…would the benefit observed in our review and surveys on wellbeing be observed with other religions?

Thanks for visiting. I look forward to your comments and questions.

WC Stewart

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