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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Happiness hypothesis (Afluenza)

Afluenza. A term coined to denote the social ills caused by too much prosperity. Strange that intellectuals find it strange that "things", and lots of money don't bring happiness with it as a natural consequence. Rich is better than being poor, right? 


Basically the conclusion of the piece is that people with religious affiliations are more contented with life, seem to live longer, and keep all their marbles longer.


I copied this piece from the following link.
http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/uploads/docs/2009_12/1259854421_Graham_2009_article.pdf
Religion and the Pursuit of Happiness
So far we have focused on the importance of ‘valuing values’ in relation to happiness and well-being, and the need to incorporate into economic reckonings of prosperity a ‘thick’ account of human flourishing that acknowledges emotional, familial and spiritual factors, and is capable of understanding how religious values might contribute to well-being. What the literature on well being acknowledges time after time is the significance of a philosophy of life, although this is not identical with organized religion—even though Layard at one point does indeed declare that ‘people who believe in God are happier’.15 The Centre for Spirituality,  Theology and Health at Duke University in the United States publishes digests of research in this area, and reports on a series of clinical studies which suggest, amongst other things: improved rates of  recovery for cancer patients who report involvement in faith communities; enhanced longevity amongst those who attend synagogue; slower rates of cognitive decline in those experiencing the onset of dementia and marginal impact on aspects of coping strategies in relation to recovery from serious illness for 14)
 Joseph Stiglitz, ‘h e Ethical Economist’, Foreign Affairs (November-December 2005), <http://
www.foreignaff airs.org/20051101farevieessay84612/joseph-e-stiglitz/the-ethical-economist.
html> [accessed 15 June 2008].15)  Layard, Happiness, p. 72.12  E. Graham / International Journal of Public Theology 3 (2009) 5–23 religious people.16   The evidence is varied, but rich, although clearly such research raises important questions of method and interpretation. For example, is the incidence of better mental health amongst religious people due to divine influence or human solidarity; do different religious traditions deliver different degrees of well-being; what about religious traditions that stress individual practices, such as meditation, in comparison with more corporate ones; what is the relationship between ‘religion’ and  spirituality’, that is between organizational, formal dimensions of observance and a more subtle appreciation of existential or transcendent dimensions to life. In terms of explaining the correlation between religion and well-being, however, the consensus seems to be that there is powerful ‘added value’ in religion.17  It appears to be down to a combination of factors, amongst which social support and membership of a faith-community is pre-eminent, but which extends to other forms of religious practice, such as prayer, reading  one’s sacred Scriptures, a sense of meaning, an existential belief system and a well-articulated moral code. Whilst other (secular) activities might provide some of these elements, commentators such as Richard Eckersley, argue that religion ‘packages’ these components effectively and accessibly. 18 More specifi cally, John Swinton postulates various tangible mechanisms by which religious affiliation might contribute to greater mental and emotional well-being including: regulation of lifestyle and behaviour, such as restriction  of intake of alcohol; provision of resources, such as social support and networks; promotion of positive self-esteem; acquisition of specific life-skills and coping resources, such as a framework of understanding illness, stress or loss; generation of positive emotions, cultivation of disposition towards forgiveness, hope and transformation. 19 Eckersley states: ‘All in all, well-being comes from being connected and engaged, from being suspended in a web of relationships and interests. h is gives meaning to people’s lives’.20
16)
 ‘Latest Religion and Health Research Outside Duke (2000–2007)’, <http://www.dukespirituality
andhealth.org/resources/pdfs/Research%20-%20latest%20outside%20Duke.pdf> [accessed 8 July
2008].
17)
 Ibid.
18)
 Richard M. Eckersley, ‘Culture, Spirituality, Religion and Health: Looking at the Big Picture’, Medical Journal of Australia, 186:10 (suppl.), 54–6.
19)
 John Swinton, ‘Researching Spirituality and Mental Health’, in M. E. Coyte, P. Gilbert and
V. Nicholls, eds,  Spirituality, Values and Mental Health  (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers,
2007), pp. 292–305.
20)
 Eckersley, 54. E. Graham / International Journal of Public Theology 3 (2009) 5–23  13
These claims veer towards the territory of religion as a form of ‘social capital’. The danger of all of this, however, is to fall into a narrowly functionalist account, in which religion ‘delivers’ certain social goods to wider society. This is certainly one of the ways in which the ‘social capital’ thesis can be adopted,
but it seems to me that there are broader, critical and normative factors that need to be considered: perhaps more a theological critique or reflection on the nature of human well-being.

4 comments:

Desiree said...

Very interesting!

Gorges Smythe said...

Well surprise, surprise!

The Tame Lion said...

Absolutely fantastic! :)

Philip Robinson said...

I think God might have something to do with it? A great piece of scientific proof that the world isn't flat after all! As Gorges says, surprise, surprise - but then the exercise makes the basic assumption that God is a figment of the human imagination. Would there be any less convincing argument for religion than "well it might make you more content".
All the same, very thought provoking.