Who are the happiest people? According to a new report from Gallup, it's those who regularly go to a place of worship, whether it be a church, mosque or synagogue.
Any maybe it shouldn't be a surprise, but the churchgoers' positive emotions are especially high on Sundays -- while everyone else actually sees a decline in mood on that day, according to the findings of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
The report is based on the results of 300,000 interviews in 2011. People were asked about the positive emotions (like happiness, learning or smiling) and negative emotions (like sadness, anger and stress) experienced the day before. The researchers tallied up each individual "emotional moment" to determine the survey respondents' emotional well being.
The researchers found that people who frequently attend church had 3.36 positive emotions a day, on average. However, the positive emotions among people who never go to church numbered 3.08 per day, on average.
The difference in positive emotions remained true even after researchers adjusted for factors like income, age and education.
And on Sundays in particular, the churchgoers had 3.49 positive emotions, on average, while the infrequent or non-churchgoers experienced 3.14 to 3.29 positive emotions on Sundays, according to the Gallup findings.
However, the Gallup researchers noted that positive emotions hit a high on the weekends, compared to weekdays, for both churchgoers and non-churchgoers.
The researchers hypothesized that these findings may arise because churchgoers are around their friends on Sunday, thereby boosting socialization and their moods.
Last month, Gallup came out with a report showing that religious people in America have higher levels of wellbeing than the nonreligious and moderately religious.
And even earlier this year, a Queen's University study showed that thinking about religion is linked with practicing greater self-control in a non-religious task.
"Until now, I believed religion was a matter of faith; people had little 'practical' use for religion," study researcher Kevin Rounding, a psychology graduate student at the university, said in a statement. "This research actually suggests that religion can serve a very useful function in society. People can turn to religion not just for transcendence and fears regarding death and an after-life but also for practical purposes."
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