Does attending religious services make people happier? Several studies have shown that Christians who attend church report higher life satisfaction than those who don't. How about Jews who attend synagogue?
Two new studies show that Jews who attend synagogue regularly and pray often report slightly higher overall well-being than Jews who don't.
Of course, the finding doesn't prove that attending synagogue makes people happy, or that Jews who skip synagogue can't be happy.
"Just that on average and across the whole population there's a modestly higher level of well-being in regular synagogue attenders," study author Dr. Jeff Levin, professor of epidemiology and population health at Baylor University, told The Huffington Post in an email.
For the studies, Dr. Levin looked at data from recent international surveys about religious attendance and happiness. One study, published in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, dealt with a sample of 1,849 Israeli Jewish adults. The other, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, involved a sample of 991.
What might explain the link between synagogue-going and well-being? Dr. Levin points to a few possibilities: The social support offered by a religious community, religious messages that inspire optimism and good behavior, and positive emotions that can come from having a regular routine.
The research did not explore links between Jews' religious beliefs and their mental health. Other recent research has shown that psychiatric patients who believe in God have better treatment outcomes -- but not all studies show a positive effect for faith. A study released in April linked belief in an angry God to poor mental health.