During his sabbatical at the end of last year, Chance the Rapper quit smoking while studying Scripture. “I feel really good right now, thank u Father,” he wrote on Instagram, where he shared passages of Scripture and counted days gone by without another cigarette.
The Chicago native, who has become outspoken about his walk with Christ in his music and public life, is one example of a trend researchers found among the faithful: Believers who are active in their faith tend to make healthier choices and live happier lives.
Among Americans who identify as Christian or another religious tradition and attend services at least once a month, 85 percent don’t smoke, compared to 74 percent of the religiously unaffiliated and 72 percent of those who attend services less often.
The trend holds up around the world, where regular worshipers are less likely to smoke by a significant margin in 16 of 19 countries surveyed. (In most of those places, the active religious also drank less, but not by as wide a margin.)
Smoking and drinking were among several measures of wellbeing analyzed in the new report, based on data from the World Values Survey (2010–2014), the International Social Survey Programme, and Pew surveys.
Across 25 other countries for which data are available, the actively religious report being happier than the unaffiliated by a statistically significant margin in almost half (12 countries) and happier than inactively religious adults in roughly one-third (nine) of the countries.
While believers can rely on God to help manage their suffering and endure hardship whether active members of congregations or not, those who regularly attend services have the added support of social connections. Earlier research, Pew pointed out, indicates that friendship is a key factor.
“Those who frequently attend a house of worship may have more people they can rely on for information and help during both good and bad times,” the report said, citing scholars Chaeyoon Lim of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Robert Putnam of Harvard University. “Indeed, a range of social scientific research corroborates the idea that social support is pivotal to other aspects of well-being.”