Study Sheds Light on Benefits of Home-Centered Religious Practice
Religion is an important way for many people to find meaning and connection in their lives.
Individuals who engage in regular religious practice at home in addition to attending church regularly report higher levels of life meaning and relationship quality
PROVO, UTAH, December 13, 2022 – While many public reports have found that religion has a profoundly positive impact on people’s lives, a new report from the Wheatley Institute suggests that many of these studies often underestimate the full benefits of religion. The report entitled, “A Not-So-Good Faith Estimate: Why Many Studies Underestimate the Full Benefits of Religion,” explores how active engagement in home-centered religious practices-in addition to regularly attending their religious services-leads to experiencing the greatest benefits to individual well-being and relationship outcomes.
“Religious dosage matters,” said Jason S. Carroll, Associate Director of the Wheatley Institute and co-author of the report. “Attending religious services is beneficial to many people, as we have long known. But our research found that those people who attend church regularly and engage in religious practices at home are significantly more likely to report high levels of life meaning, better mental health and improved relationship quality.”
The study highlights the deficiencies with the common practice in many public studies of measuring religiosity solely by levels of church attendance. When these studies combine individuals and families who engage in home-centered religious practices with those who only attend church, it conceals large and important differences between the two groups and leads to the erroneous conclusion that the potential benefits of religion are smaller than they actually are. In fact, the report suggests that measuring religiosity with only church attendance underestimates the benefits of religion for the most religious individuals by approximately 25% on average and can be as high as nearly 50% on certain outcomes. This means that highly religious individuals who engage in home-centered religious practices frequently score 25% higher, and in some cases as much as 50% higher, than is often reported for “highly religious” individuals in many public research reports.
Findings for the report were based on the 2018 Global Faith and Families Survey (GFFS2018), which sampled adults between the ages of 18 and 50 over a two-week period. Ipsos Public Affairs, a prominent social research firm, conducted the survey on behalf of the Wheatley Institute and the Institute for Family Studies. The survey comprised of over 16,000 individuals from 11 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Ireland, Mexico, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The report measured what the authors call “Home Worship,” a concept that refers to individuals of various faith traditions who attend church weekly, pray individually and with their family, read scriptures, and engage in religious conversation in their home several times per week.
Researchers sectioned the dataset into four groups: Seculars (non-religious individuals who never attend church and report that they never engage in personal worship practices - 31% of the US sample ); Nominals(those who report some amount of either personal or public religious participation, but do not regularly attend religious services – 43% of the US sample); Attenders (those who attend church weekly and engage in some home worship patterns, but do not do so regularly – 15% of the US sample); and Home Worshippers (those who attend church at least weekly, but also pray on a daily basis and engage in the home worship practices of praying together as a family, reading scriptures, and having religious conversations in the home on a regular basis at least two to three times a week – 11% of the US sample).
Key findings include:
● Home Worshiper women and men are much more likely to report high levels of life meaning than their Secular, Nominal, and Attender counterparts. In fact, Home Worshipers are nearly twice as likely than their less-religious peers, and more than four times more likely than Seculars, to report a frequent sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.
● Home Worshiper men are more than twice as likely to report a high level of happiness than are men with no religious involvement and nearly 40% higher than Attender men.
● Home Worshiper women are approximately twice as likely to report high emotional closeness in their marriage relationship than are the other three religious dosage groups and they are the only group where one can predict that the majority of respondents report high emotional closeness.
● In terms of sexual satisfaction in their marriage, only one-quarter (25%) of Secular women report being highly satisfied sexually, whereas about one-third of Nominal (34%) and Attender (34%) women are high satisfied sexually and one-half of Home Worshiper (49%) women are highly satisfied sexually.
● Home Worshiper couples also report significantly higher levels of shared decision making between partners, fewer money problems, and more frequent patterns of loving behavior such as forgiveness, commitment, and kindness than their less-religious peers.
● Many of the benefits of home-centered religious practices are even stronger in the United States than they are in other countries – and are particularly strong for women. In fact, highly religious women in the United States were the sample most underestimated by measuring religiosity with only church attendance levels – with home worshipping women in the U.S. scoring 40% higher, on average, on measures of wellbeing than standard measures of religiosity would typically show.
● In the United States, Home Worshiper women are more than twice as likely to have a frequent sense of life meaning than Attending and Nominal women; and are nearly five times more likely to report a frequent sense of meaning than Secular women. Home Worshiper women in the United States are also significantly more likely to report a high level of relationship quality than Attender women.
● In the United States, Home Worshiper women are 3 times more likely than their secular peers and 2 times as likely as their Attender peers to report high relationship quality in their marriages; men in Home Worshiper relationships are roughly twice as likely to report that they are in a high-quality marriage than their Secular peers
● Home Worshiper women in the US are approximately twice as likely to report high sexual satisfaction in their marriages than are Attender and Nominal women and are three times as likely to report high sexual satisfaction than are Secular women. Home Worshiper and Attender men in the US are twice as likely to report high sexual satisfaction than their Secular peers.
“Religion is an important way for many people to find meaning and connection in their lives. Therefore, it is not surprising that the extent to which one engages in religious practices is predictive of the extent to which one gains the anticipated benefits of religion,” said Spencer L. James, a Fellow at the Wheatley Institute and co-author of the report. “Future research on the influences of religion should consider the drawbacks of measuring religiosity solely using religious attendance or affiliation, as the results will likely underestimate what one may find with a richer measurement of religiosity using home-based religious practices.”
For access to the full report, visit wheatley.byu.edu/a-not-so-good-faith-estimate
About Wheatley Institute
Wheatley Institute at Brigham Young University engages students, scholars, thought leaders, and the public in research-supported work that fortifies the core institutions of the family, religion, and constitutional government.