Erasmus School of Economics
EUR 105 years Science meets City

Relationship religion and happiness: the chicken or the egg

Ruut Veenhoven, who is affiliated with the Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization of Erasmus University Rotterdam

A study conducted by the American Pew Research Centre, in the United States and 34 other – mostly Western - countries, shows that churchgoers are more often happier compared to non-churchgoers. In addition, they are more often members of an association and more socially involved. After analyzing the data from the study, Ruut Veenhoven, Happiness Professor of the Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization of Erasmus University Rotterdam, concludes that the study lacks certain nuances. ‘A correlation is not the same as a cause.’

‘The situation differs per country. In the United States, where family members often live far apart and the state of social unification is weaker, churches have a stronger social function than in the Netherlands.’ According to Veenhoven, the study does not answer the question whether religious activity makes people happier or whether happiness makes people – even in churches – more active. ‘The next question would be whether church activity brings more happiness than, for example, participation in for example a football club. These effects can also differ between people and situations.’


The entire article in the Dutch daily newspaper Reformatiorisch Dagblad can be downloaded below, 1 February 2019.