God Makes You Glad: Positive Christian Attitude Linked to Happiness
“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.” Psalm 5:11
What is it about a beautiful, bright, sunshiny day that makes you cheerful and happy, whistling a tune on your way into work? Today was one of those days—and a Saturday, no less. The temperature was perfect, and there was a nice breeze blowing through the trees. All was well as I made my way into work.
Wait…what? I was happy about having to work over the weekend? Yeah. I was.
Maybe, just maybe, there was a good explanation.
A total of seven studies have researched the correlation between Christianity and levels of happiness by using two scales to determine the relationship. The first, called the Francis Scale of Attitude toward Christianity,1 is a “24-item rating inventory, concerned with affective response toward God, Jesus, [the] Bible, prayer, and church.” Subjects rated each item by selecting one option from five choices varying from “agree strongly” to “disagree strongly.” The second scale, the Oxford Happiness Inventory,2 is used to measure the subject’s degrees of happiness.
Between all seven research efforts, a total of 3,334 subjects were studied. The first five studies demonstrated a positive correlation. With an n=331, only the sixth study conducted showed a negative response.
Recently, a study from researchers at the University of Wales in Great Britain3 replicated the efforts from the six previous studies. The researchers repeated the failed study, and got a positive response. It appears the one negative study could have been a fluke. The University of Wales folks speculate that the negative report may have failed to find a positive relationship between Christianity and happiness because where as the first five studies were performed in English-speaking countries, the failed study was performed in a different country where a different language (German) was the primary spoken language. Rating scales and wording differences between languages can make such studies tricky.
In any case, six studies out of seven, with a total of 3,003 subjects, found a significant positive correlation between a Christian attitude and happiness (in just the last study, r=0.38, p< 0.001, n=89). This means that subjects who, based on the Francis scale, had a more positive Christian outlook were generally found to be happier on the Oxford Happiness Inventory scale.
This research provides excellent evidence for dual revelation: what we read in the word of God (for instance, Psalm 5:11 above) correlates to what we see in our own natural world. With data like that and a beautiful day, who wouldn’t be happy?
James C. Patterson II, MD, PhD
Dr. James C. Patterson II received his MD and PhD degrees from the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1996, and currently serves as Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Emergency Psychiatry at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, Louisiana. He is also a member of the Shreveport Chapter of RTB.
- L. J. Francis and M.T. Stubbs, “Measuring attitudes towards Christianity: from childhood into adulthood,” Personality and Individual Differences, 8(1987), 741–743.
- M. Argyle, M. Martin, and J. Crossland, “Happiness as a function of personality and social encounters,” In J. P. Forgas & J. M. Innes (Eds), Recent advances in social psychology: an international perspective. Amsterdam: North Holland-Elsevier Science. 189–203.
- L. J. Francis and M. Robbins, “Correlation between Religion and Happiness: A Replication,” Psychological Reports 92 (2003): 51–52.