A new Gallup poll has revealed what many churchgoers already know – going to a place of worship and participating in a congregation makes people happier and lifts up their spirits.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is a real-time measurement that insights to help improve health, increase productivity, and lower healthcare costs. Gallup interviews 1,000 adults every day to compile its data that takes a look at happiness trends ranging from 2008 and onward.
The 2011 findings, based on interviews with more than 300,000 respondents, concluded that people who go to church frequently experience an average of 3.36 positive emotions per day, compared to the average 3.08 experienced by others. The positive emotions in question include smiling and laughter, enjoyment, happiness, and learning or doing something interesting.
The places of worship referenced include not only Christian churches, but also synagogues and mosques. Of those who attended services on Sundays, they experienced an "extra boost" to their state of happiness on that day, while those who rarely attended, or did not attend at all, admitted to feeling pretty down on Sunday night – most likely in anticipation of the start of the working week on Monday.
"Sunday is the only day of the week when the moods of frequent churchgoers and those who do not attend a religious service often diverge in direction significantly," the report found. "Perhaps some secular Americans begin to dread the return to work on Monday or curtail their social or leisure activities on Sunday to prepare for the start of the workweek."
The findings also try to delve deeper into the question of why Sunday is so special for those who attend church frequently.
"A possible answer is that across most religions, religious attendance is highest on Sunday – the day when regular churchgoers are most likely to socialize with their fellow congregants," the study offers.
The Gallup report also references another study – the 2006 Faith Matters Survey, which found that friendship in church is more strongly aligned with life satisfaction than friendships in other contexts, such as the workplace or a book club.
"It is not only that churchgoing Americans may be more likely to socialize on Sundays, but also that they are spending time with co-religionists who can especially boost their mood," the study concludes.