October 28th, 2010
08:06 PM ET

Gallup: Very religious Americans have higher levels of well-being

From CNN's Dan Gilgoff:

Christopher Hitchens' atheist manifesto was subtitled "how religion poisons everything," but a new polling analysis challenges that notion, finding that very religious Americans have higher levels of well-being than the rest of the country.

The most religious Americans show the highest levels of well-being as measured by factors ranging from physical and emotional health to self-evaluations of life to perceptions of work environment, according to a Gallup report released Thursday.

Americans for whom religion is an important part of everyday life and who attend religious services roughly once a week or more score an average 68.7 on a well-being index developed by Gallup and Healthways, a health consulting company.

Americans who are moderately religious or who are nonreligious, meanwhile, average 64.2 on the Gallup-Healthways well-being index.

Gallup Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport says that the gap is significant because there are typically few differences in the well-being index between Americans from different demographics.

"It's not like some people score zero and others score 100," Newport told CNN. "So when we find a difference of four of five points it's not only statistically significant, it's also substantively significant."

Newport said that the biggest difference between very religious and nonreligious Americans is in healthy behavior, which is mostly explained by a negative correlation between smoking and religiosity.

"We now have the solution to the health care crisis," Newport joked. "If we're interested in lowering health care costs in America, we need to increase the prevalence of religion."

Though the survey didn't gauge whether religiosity led to higher levels of well being or vice versa, Newport speculated that religiosity was the likely driver.

"All religions have different mechanisms that would plausibly lead to higher well-being, including social networks and ways of dealing with stress, but we can't prove that," he said. "It is possible that people with higher levels of well-being choose to be religious."

The Gallup analysis draws on more than 550,000 interviews. Newport said that the polling firm asks 1,000 Americans a night about indicators of well being and about levels of religiosity.

The analysis controlled for other factors that typically influence levels of religiosity, including age, gender, race and ethnicity, region, state, socioeconomic status, marital status and child-bearing status.

According to Gallup surveys, 44 percent of Americans are very religious, 30 percent are nonreligious and 27 percent are moderately religious.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Polls

soundoff (228 Responses)
  1. Well being or wellbeing

    Down below may be the report on food items on your health that are additionally necessary to improve your health. It really is then recommended to follow these food types for the diet, avoid quick ...

    February 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  2. Observer


    November 2, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
    • NL

      Yes, truly evil spirits would go a long way in furthering their goals by reporting that there is a God where none actually existed.

      November 3, 2010 at 11:18 am |
  3. Observer

    Hi NL. No, I would not necessarily believe them, because if they are spirits of dead persons, already passed on, I am not sure they would be telling the truth. All it would prove to me, is that commincation beyond the grave is possible. They could hold the same beliefs as they did in life.
    It is an interesting study, and I thought you would like to read it.

    November 1, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
    • NL

      If these 'spirits' existed the criteria for establishing a 'contact' was that they be able to answer certain questions correctly, which is the same as truthfully, right? So, at least we would know that they can tell the truth, but you're right, they could also lie. Still, they could just as easily lie in support for there being a God as against, right?

      November 1, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  4. Gary

    Too Muneef , quran is nothing but a text written by men for man. religion is simply a faith from your culture. All cultures seem to create some kind of imaginary religion over the course of time.

    October 31, 2010 at 10:33 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.