December 2003

From University of Warwick

Psychology researcher says spiritual meaning of Christmas brings more happiness than materialism

Religious people are happier than those without spirituality in their life, says psychologist Dr Stephen Joseph from the University of Warwick, and those who celebrate the original, Christian, meaning of Christmas are, on the whole, happier than those who primarily celebrate the festive season with consumer gifts.

Research entitled "Religiosity and its association with happiness, purpose in life, and self-actualisation" published in Mental Health, Religion & Culture reveals a positive relation between religiosity and happiness. The study also suggests that the reason for this is that religious people are happier because they have more of a sense of purpose in their lives than non-religious people.

Dr Stephen Joseph, from the University of Warwick, said: "Religious people seem to have a greater purpose in life, which is why they are happier. Looking at the research evidence, it seems that those who celebrate the Christian meaning of Christmas are on the whole likely to be happier. Research shows that too much materialism in our lives can be terrible for happiness."

One hundred and one people (57 males and 44 females) completed questionnaires to measure Attitudes Towards Christianity, Happiness, Purpose in Life, to assess the link between Christianity and happiness. Results showed that religious people are happier, and that the relation between religiosity and happiness is, in part, related to a sense of purpose in life.

Dr Stephen Joseph added: "However, it is important to note that religious beliefs are only one path to finding a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. Those who put less emphasis on striving for financial or material success in their lives and instead focus more on fostering their sense of community, for example by donating money to charity, helping others, or those who strive to have good personal relationships, tend to be happier whether or not they are religious. What seems to be important is living your life in a way that emphasises the importance of being involved in your community and caring for people, and Christmas is a reminder to us all of this message."

For more information contact: Dr Stephen Joseph, Department of Psychology, University of Warwick Mobile: 0786 780 0320, Tel: 02476 528 182 or Jenny Murray, Communications Office, University of Warwick Tel: 247-657-4255, Mobile: 787-621-7740, Email:

"Religiosity and its association with happiness, purpose in life, and self-actualisation" is published in Mental Health, Religion & Culture, Volume 2, Number 2.

This article comes from Science Blog. Copyright 2004

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