The research defines subjective well-being as an aspect of mental health. Subjective
well-being research is concerned with how and why people experience their lives
in positive ways. There appear to be three central concepts that make up quality
of life: psychological happiness, life satisfaction and purpose.
Psychological happiness refers to sensations, feelings or moods. Life satisfaction
involves evaluating whether one’s needs, goals or wishes are fulfilled. Purpose
can perhaps be defined as human flourishing. Sirgy (2012) proposes that these three
quality of life constructs correspond with a pleasant, engaged and meaningful life
– all aspects that may be defined as authentic happiness.
The churches and well-being: perspectives from the Australian National Church Life
NCLS Research looks at the intersection between well-being and religion in the Australian
context, including the wellbeing of church leaders and church attenders. Relationships
between religious involvement and practice, and personal wellbeing are examined.
The research defines subjective well-being as an aspect of mental health and seeks
to establish the relationship with religion. Australia is a wealthy nation with
high levels of well-being but declining indicators of religiosity. To explore mental
health, the research primarily focuses on positive indicators of quality of life,
well-being or human flourishing.
Relationships between religion and well-being
In the second edition of the Handbook of Religion and Health, Koenig et al. (2012)
reported that 73% found positive relationships between greater religiousness and
In what they claim to be the first-ever representative sample of the world and a
representative sample of the USA, Diener, Tay and Myers (2011) found that religiosity
in Buddism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam, tended to be associated with subjective
well-being. The literature contains a lot of evidence that beliefs affect subjective
well-being in a positive way. Religious people are generally happier than non-religious
people, irrespective of their faith. Additionally, the degree to which God or religion
is important is generally positively related to life satisfaction and happiness.
People with strong religious beliefs tend to experience higher levels of life satisfaction
than those with weaker religious beliefs. Stronger religious beliefs may also buffer
people against negative life events. Some studies have also found a positive relationship
between certain religious approaches and well-being. Regular engagement in religious
activities appears to be positively related to subjective well-being. Further, Koenig
et al. (2012) found that church attendance was positively related to well-being.
Religion and well-being in the Australian cultural context
Researchers have concluded that psychological benefits of religion are greatest
in poor countries.
The majority of Australians maintain a religious affiliation, but all religious
indicators are in decline. In 1901, 96% of Australians claimed a Christian affiliation
in the five-yearly national census. By 1991, this had declined to 74%. In 2011,
68% of Australians claimed religious affiliation: 61% identify with Christian denominations
and 7% identify with other religions.
Various sample survey of the Australian populations show a decline in ‘belief
in the existence of God or some other kind of higher power’ from around 78%
in 1993 to 69% in 2009. Frequent church attendance (at least monthly) has also declined
from a high point of 44% in the 1950s to 15% in 2009 (Powell. 2013).
Volunteering, religiosity and well-being: Interrelationships in Australian churchgoers
Existing research has mostly found positive but sometimes inconclusive and contradictory
results about the relationship between volunteering and well-being, as well as between
church attendance and volunteering. Part of the reason why church attenders with
high religiosity have higher well-being is because they are more likely to volunteer.
Subjective well-being, religious involvement and psychological type among Australia
In a sample of 1,855 churchgoers who completed the 2011 NCLS, the data demonstrated
a positive relationship between extraversion and well-being. Religiousness and well-being
were also positively related, however denominational affiliation made no difference.
Subjective wellbeing and psychological type among Australian clergy
Like attenders, Australian clergy with an extravert preference are significantly
more likely to experience higher levels of subjective well-being than introverts.
Spirituality and work engagement amongst church leaders
The results using data from 1,230 church leaders showed positive relationships between
resources and work engagement. However, as job demands increased, the positive relationship
between spiritual resources and work engagement decreased. The patterns were not
significantly different for clergy in comparison to lay leaders.
Interacting religious orientations and personal well-being
Some religious styles and orientations appear more conducive to reported personal
well-being than others.
Wider community research
See also Research Papers for more information...
More Resources about the Community
Building Stronger Communities
Practical research and hands-on experience about how to strengthen communities by
NCLS Research and Edith Cowan University. Available with Study Guide for churches.
Find out more...
Why People Don't Go to Church
This book, using the Australian Community Survey, gives a unique perspective of
the churches through the eyes of those who do not go. Find