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Three years ago, the Gallup organization released the results of a massive study on the link between religion and happiness, surveying 676,000 people.
The result? Mormons and Jews tied for first place, with a 69.4% “Well-Being Index Composite Score.”
Why do Mormons score consistently high in these studies? (See also here and here.)
This past weekend at the International Positive Psychology meeting in Orlando, I met a researcher who recently finished a thesis on just this question. Elisa Hunter (see here) has a master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied with Marty Seligman, considered by many to be the founder of the field.
Here are 5 reasons that Hunter thinks Mormons may have a head start on happiness.
1. A pro-social orientation
“A lot of research suggests that Mormons are the most pro–social group in America. Active Mormons report that they volunteer an average of 35.6 hours per month, including church callings but not missions. Even if you take out religious volunteering (callings and other church service), Mormons still volunteer as much as the national average. Also, Mormons donate more than twice as much (9.3%) of their income as the national average of people who give to charity (4%) and more than four times as much as the national average overall (2%). Excluding tithing, Mormons still contribute a large amount to charity: $2,024 annually.”
2. A focus on family
“Mormonism has a large emphasis on Family Home Evening, family prayer, family meals, and family rituals. A review of 32 publications suggests that family rituals and routines are associated with childhood health, academic achievement, and improved marital satisfaction. Also, one surprising finding is that a study at Emory University showed that knowledge of family history greatly predicted a child’s psychological health. Researchers found higher self-esteem, lower anxiety, and lower behavior problems in kids that know their family’s stories. This could be because they develop a sense of identity that’s larger than just themselves. They’re embedded in a larger, intergenerational context. Knowing that your great-grandma was able to cross the plains after her husband died could give you a greater amount of grit and self-determination.”
Read the rest at Religious News Service