Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


Overall life conditions that enable the optimal level of individual functioning in all aspects of life and that promote general feelings of satisfaction with one's life.

Many factors are related to a person's sense of well-being, including objective conditions such as health, economic resources, and social relations plus subjective assessment of one's specific circumstances and overall life satisfaction. Although some studies do not emphasize religion explicitly (Andrews and Withey 1976), religious or spiritual well-being may be regarded as a distinct dimension of well-being in its own right (Moberg 1979). Overall, the critical question is whether religion contributes significantly to subjective well-being. The weight of the evidence indicates an affirmative answer for persons with a strong personal (intrinsic) faith and/or high levels of involvement in their religious group (Petersen and Roy 1985, Witter et al. 1985). Although the evidence is not entirely consistent and depends in part on how religiosity is measured, some studies suggest that religious faith, experience, and practice may be positively related to good physical and/or mental health (Ferraro and Albrecht-Jensen 1991, Kass et al. 1991).

See also Life Satisfaction, Mental Health

Doyle Paul Johnson


F. M. Andrews and S. B. Withey, Social Indicators of Well-Being (New York: Plenum, 1976)

K. F. Ferraro and C. M. Albrecht-Jensen, "Does Religion Influence Adult Health?" Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 30(1991):193-202

J. D. Kass et al., "Health Outcomes and a New Index of Spiritual Experience," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 30(1991):203-211

D. O. Moberg (ed.), Spiritual Well-Being (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1979)

L. R. Petersen and A. Roy, "Religiosity, Anxiety, and Meaning and Purpose," Review of Religious Research 27(1985):49-62

R. A. Witter et al., "Religion and Subjective Well-Being in Adulthood," Review of Religious Research 26(1985):332-342.

return to Encyclopedia Table of Contents

Hartford Institute for Religion Research   hirr@hartsem.edu
Hartford Seminary, 77 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT 06105  860-509-9500