Jews, religious or not, top US 'well-being' index

Atheists, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims fall behind Jews; Gallup analysis claims "strong positive relationship between religiosity and well-being."

January 17, 2011 16:16
2 minute read.
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NEW YORK – For happiness, there’s no group quite like American Jews.

Indeed, they scored the highest of any US religious group in terms of “well-being” – even though more than half of American Jews qualify as “nonreligious,” according to the new Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

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The survey was taken of more than 550,000 people who were scored on questions used to indicate their emotional health, physical health, work environment and healthy behavior.

Jews were ranked No. 1, followed by nonreligious or atheists/agnostics, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims and other religions.

Protestants scored the lowest.

Individual groups were also divided among the “very religious” (based on how important religion is in their lives); the “nonreligious” (those who say religion isn’t important); and the “moderately religious,” (who fall somewhere in between). More than half – 55 percent – of US Jews were classified as “nonreligious,” while 16% were “very religious.”

Seventy-five percent of Mormons deemed themselves “very religious,” the most of any group. Nonreligious Americans came in second in the study. Gallup-Healthways said this group, although small in size, likely scored high because it includes unaffiliated Americans who may be religious but don’t belong to a specific faith group, as well as atheists and agnostics.


The “very religious” generally scored higher in the study in each subset than their nonreligious counterparts – perhaps reflecting the “social aspects of attending religious institutions,” the researchers suggested.

American Jews were no exception to this calculus; the most religious Jews scored highest on the index.

“The findings confirm that the strong positive relationship between religiosity and well-being that Gallup-Healthways previously demonstrated holds regardless of faith,” Gallup wrote in an analysis of the data.

“Furthermore, the relationship appears to be largely independent of proportions of very religious, moderately religious and nonreligious within each religious group – and it is more closely aligned with the faith itself.”

Overall, the study concluded that 44% of Americans are very religious; 27% are moderately religious; and 30% are nonreligious.

The survey, conducted over a seven-month period, was the result of a partnership between Gallup and Healthways, a Tennessee company focused on health. It involved a random sample of 554,066 US adults, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 0.5 percentage points.

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