Religion, Social Networks, and Life Satisfaction

Religion, Social Networks, and Life Satisfaction

Religion, Social Networks, and Life Satisfaction
Chaeyoon Lima and Robert D. Putnamb

American Sociological Review 75(6) 914–933 Ó American Sociological Association 2010 DOI: 10.1177/0003122410386686

Abstract Although the positive association between religiosity and life satisfaction is well documented, much theoretical and empirical controversy surrounds the question of how religion actually shapes life satisfaction. Using a new panel dataset, this study offers strong evidence for social and participatory mechanisms shaping religion’s impact on life satisfaction. Our findings suggest that religious people are more satisfied with their lives because they regularly attend religious services and build social networks in their congregations. The effect of within-congregation friendship is contingent, however, on the presence of a strong religious identity. We find little evidence that other private or subjective aspects of religiosity affect life satisfaction independent of attendance and congregational friendship.

life satisfaction, religion, social networks, social identity

Interest in subjective well-being has a long tradition in philosophy and psychology, but only recently have scholars across many disciplines begun to explore the question of happiness and life satisfaction. This emerging body of interdisciplinary literature embraces subjective perceptions of well-being as important indicators of quality of life. A main contribution of this literature is an improvement in the reliability and validity of measures of subjective well-being, such as self-rating questions about happiness and life satisfaction (e.g., Diener et al. 1999; Kahneman and Krueger 2006). These studies suggest that subjective aspects of quality of life can be quantified and systematically analyzed. A wide range of factors can influence subjective well-being (Campbell, Converse, and Rodgers 1976). For example, numerous studies find religion to be...

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