Study: Having Church Friends Makes You Happy

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Are you going to
church regularly? Do you have a few good friends in the congregation? A new
study concludes those are two keys to a happier life.

Just how
important is the friend factor at church? A study released in the December
issue of the American
Sociological Review
finds that even going to church services several
times a year can boost your sense of well-being—if you have a circle of friends
there who you identify with belief-wise.

“Our study
offers compelling evidence that it is the social aspects of religion rather
than theology or spirituality that leads to life satisfaction,” says Chaeyoon Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the study titled Religion, Social
Networks and Life Satisfaction
. “In particular, we find that
friendships built in religious congregations are the secret ingredient in
religion that makes people happier.”

Lim’s study
reveals that 33 percent of people who attend church every week—and have between
three and five close friends—are “extremely satisfied” in life. By contrast,
only 19 percent of people who attend church every week—but don’t have close
friends there—are extremely satisfied. Meanwhile, 23 percent of people who
limit churchgoing to several times a year—but have between three and five close
friends there—are extremely satisfied with their lives.

“To me, the
evidence substantiates that it is not really going to church and listening to
sermons or praying that makes people happier, but making church-based friends
and building intimate social networks there,” Lim says.

“One of the
important functions of religion is to give people a sense of belonging to a
moral community based on religious faith,” Lim continues. “This community,
however, could be abstract and remote unless one has an intimate circle of
friends who share a similar identity. The friends in one’s congregation thus
make the religious community real and tangible, and strengthen one’s sense of belonging
to the community.”

What about you? Do
you agree that the friends you have at church make the difference? Let me know
what you think in the comment box below.

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