6 Ways Organized Religion Benefits Society

A church building on the inside

Organized religion’s future looks bleak sometimes.

According to the Pew Research Center, more than a third of millennials are religiously unaffiliated. The younger a person is, the more likely they are to be a “religious none”: 11 percent of the Silent Generation, 17 percent of Baby Boomers, and 23 percent of Generation X claim no religion.

But despite these numbers, researchers continue to find reasons to stay in organized religion:

Organized religion contributes $1.2 trillion to America’s GDP every year

Former Pew Research Center Analyst Brian Grim calculated the amount of money organized religion contributes to the GDP in the U.S. using religious organizations’ and schools’ 2014 annual reports.

It’s no small number — if organized religion were a country, it would have the 15th largest economy in the world.

In an interview with The Deseret News, Grim said knowing religion’s socio-economic value isn’t necessary to appreciating its overall, value but that “in an age where fewer people are raised in religious congregations, we need to show a more balanced perspective on faith than might come through in daily headlines.”

People who identify with organized religion are more likely to be charitable

A woman gives to Theravada Buddhist monksSixty-five percent of religiously affiliated Americans give to charity, compared to 56 percent of Americans who don’t claim a religion. It may not be a massive difference, but it’s still notable.

People who participate in organized religion live longer

A man holding blueberriesPeople who attend church more than once per week are expected to live about seven years longer than those who never attend church.

Researchers say this is because people who attend religious services are more likely to be healthy and have a better social network than those who don’t.

Children with religious parents behave better

A child giving another child a piggyback rideThe parents and teachers of 16,000 kids rated those kids on their self control, behavior, respect for others, and teamwork.

“The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services … and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents,” Melinda Wenner said of the study in a Live Science article.

Organized religion significantly benefits older men’s mental health

In a 2010 study of religion’s effect on older people’s health, researchers found that men who are very involved in organized religion have the best mental health. Older men who exhibit “high organizational religiosity” are less likely to be depressed and more likely to have higher optimism and self-esteem.

Organized religion tends to make people happier

A woman in a plaid shirt smilingPeople who attend religious services regularly are more likely to be happy, according to a study from the Journal of Happiness Studies. The author, Abbott L. Ferriss, suggests that “religion may explain a purpose in life that fosters well-being.”

The Oxford University Press published another study, which found that both public and private acts of religion “have relatively small but persistent positive relationships with life satisfaction.”

Ashley Lee is a news media student with a minor in editing at Brigham Young University. Her hobbies include reading, stand-up paddleboarding, and reciting seasons 1-5 of The Office word-for-word. She hopes to be a reporter for a national newspaper after graduation.