Recent studies suggest that while religion can make you a happier person, it can also mean you’re more prone to anxiety.
New figures published by the British Office for National Statistics reveal religious people in the U.K. report higher levels of happiness, self-worth, and life satisfaction than non-believers, The Telegraph reports.
“For many people a strong faith can be a protective factor,” Dr. Paul McLaren, a consultant psychiatrist at the Priory Hospitals, told The Telegraph. “With it usually comes strong social support which is a recognized protective factor against psychological trauma.”
Clay Routledge, a psychologist and associate professor at North Dakota State University, emphasized religion’s connection with social support as key in his Psychology Today blog.
“Studies show that religion gives people a sense of purpose and order and serves as a resource for coping with negative life experiences and existential fears (e.g., the fear of death),” he wrote. “However, a number of studies really seem to suggest that the magic ingredient in religion that provides happiness is social connectedness.
“ ... The key variable does not appear to be religion itself. Instead, it is the social connections that religious life facilitates that make people happy."
According to U.K.'s recent figures, different religions reported varying answers. Hindus, for example, were the happiest, followed respectively by Sikhs, Christians, Jews and Muslims, The Telegraph notes.
On the other hand, Jewish people were more likely to report high life satisfaction than Christians and Hindus.
Meanwhile, Buddhists reported experiencing less life satisfaction.
However, the non-religious included in the study reported lower levels of anxiety than those who adhere to a faith, and the Jewish respondents were the most anxious.
“The really interesting finding for me is the anxiety: I am surprised that having no religion appears to make you less anxious,” Professor Linda Woodhead, one of the UK’s leading experts on sociology of religion, told The Telegraph.
“Perhaps the most surprising thing is while Buddhism is about coming to terms with suffering and impermanence, Buddhists [in this country] are actually more anxious and less content,” she added.