Washington: People who are religious are happier and outnumber their nonreligious counterparts in societies under stress, a new research has found.
Study leader Ed Diener, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Illinois who is also a senior scientist with the Gallup Organization, analyzed data from the 2005-2009 Gallup World Poll, a survey of people in more than 150 countries that included questions about religious affiliation, life satisfaction, respect, social support and positive and negative feelings.
The new findings indicate that religiousness and happiness are closely linked to the characteristics of the societies in which people live, he said.
"Circumstances predict religiousness," said University of Illinois emeritus professor of psychology Ed Diener, who led the research.
"Difficult circumstances lead more strongly to people being religious. And in religious societies and in difficult circumstances, religious people are happier than nonreligious people. But in nonreligious societies or more benign societies where many people's needs are met, religious people aren't happier -- everyone's happier."
Religious affiliation appears to boost happiness and wellbeing in societies that fail to provide adequate food, jobs, health care, security and educational opportunities, the researchers found.
The same trends can be seen in individual states of the U.S., the researchers found, with more people reporting they are religious in poorer states with fewer social supports, Diener said.
Religious affiliation also seems to boost their wellbeing and positive feelings, compared to their nonreligious compatriots.

The study has been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.