Does believing in God make you healthier and happier?

Mother and baby

Religious people would like to think that their belief makes them happier and healthier. But is there any evidence of this?

I have trawled the internet and found there is a growing interest in this subject. I have found more than 30 medical research papers or books, most of them from the past decade. They present a very clear picture.


Medical practitioners want to do their best for their patients. Increasingly, they are recognising that treating people simply as physical beings is selling them and their health short – people are complex physical, emotional, spiritual (however that word may be defined) beings, and treating patients holistically may give better health outcomes.

Therefore in recent years, many researchers have focused on how faith, church attendance, religious activity, spirituality and prayer effect wellbeing, which includes physical and mental health, behaviour and happiness.

The results

The results are almost unanimous, with only a few studies giving different conclusions. Religious belief or faith has a positive impact on all measures of wellbeing:

  • Physical health
  • Worry and stress
  • Anxiety, depression and suicide
  • Destructive and anti-social behaviour
  • Happiness and general mental health

What can we learn?

It isn’t clear whether belief is the cause of these positive results, or if there is some other coincidental cause such as social support systems. But psychologist David Larsen writes:

If a new health treatment were discovered that helped reduce the rate of teenage suicide, prevent drug and alcohol abuse, improve treatment for depression, reduce recovery time from surgery, lower divorce rates and enhance a sense of wellbeing, one would think that every physician in the country would be scrambling to try it.

Does this say anything about God?

There is no way to prove that these positive outcomes show that God exists. But it is is hard to deny that the results do more to support belief in the existence of God than they do to undermine belief.

Read the fine print

Check out a summary of the information at Faith and wellbeing, or the details (with references) of over 30 studies on these topics at Medicine and religion studies.

Picture: MorgueFile.


  1. I agree that a belief in God can make one healthier and happier. As a Deist, I feel healthier and happier even more so than when I was part of Organized Religion. That is another subject I will leave for another day.
    Thank you unkleE for allowing me to post here.

  2. Well, I strongly suggest you pose this question to any individual who has deconverted, especially from a religion like Jehovah’s witness.

  3. Hi Ken, you are very welcome to comment here.

    It seems that the trappings of organised religion are helpful to many people, but I agree with you that there are some drawbacks! I’m one of those who think that following Jesus is more important than organised religion, though religion can sometimes be helpful – at least it helps keep in touch with people.

  4. Hi Anonymous, I guess that’s a comment straight from the heart!? I’m sorry if you have had a bad experience.

    The statistics I quote are trends and averages, and obviously aren’t uniform – people have different experiences. I suspect that someone in the position you describe initially feels free and therefore happy, but some time later this feeling may wear off and they may find (according to the statistics) that they are missing something.

    Best wishes, and thanks for commenting.

  5. Anonymous,
    His existence is evident to me through observation of the Universe. Where I think man fails is when he makes the path to God exclusive. I believe there is no path. God is in everyone. We don’t need to go through anyone to experience God. When you require that Man has to have an intermediary to get to God, you exclude the majority of the planet.

  6. If you do a study on health and happiness you are bound to find that the people who follow the social norms are happier. As for antisocial behaviour, I think the statistics show that atheists are under represented in the US prison system so I don’t know where these studies get their data.
    The most happy country in the world is fairly consistently Denmark. They have a very high proportion of atheists in the population. But, of course, in Denmark the norm is to live a secular life without religious expression.

  7. “The most happy country in the world is fairly consistently Denmark. They have a very high proportion of atheists in the population.”

    Gordon, perhaps this is because they are atheists, or because they are Danes, or because they live in Europe, or because they live in a social democracy, or perhaps because they live in a cold climate, or perhaps because of a dozen other factors. Can you reference studies that show, out of all these factors, it is atheism that makes them happier? If you cannot, then you are not being very evidence based in your comment. The studies I quoted tried to standardise the extraneous factors.

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