Muslim people feel the most satisfied with their lives because they feel more ‘oneness,’ or connection than people of other faiths, a new study suggests.
Measuring life satisfaction is about as close to quantifying ‘happiness’ as we’ve been able to get thus far, and a German psychologist’s new study suggests that a feeling of ‘oneness’ predicts overall contentment.
And when the researchers divided their 67,562 survey respondents by religion, Muslims felt the greatest sense of oneness.
Research from a number of disciplines, including religion, philosophy and psychology have suggested that varying types of connectedness lead to an over-arching sense of well-being.
What is happiness, and how do we get it? It’s one of the ‘big questions’ of psychology.
Dr Ed Deiner, a professor emeritus of psychology the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is famous in academic circles for managing to make a scale for happiness – or the ‘Satisfaction with Life Scale’ (SWLS).
Dr Deiner’s scale consists of five questions that are meant to surmise how subjectively satisfied someone is with their life as a whole.
Each question gets a ranking for how strongly the participant disagrees or agrees, on a scale of one to seven.
The higher you score, the more satisfied with your life you are (supposedly).
A number of studies, including a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, have suggested that people who describe themselves as ‘highly religious’ are more likely to say they are ‘very happy’ with life.
The vast majority (95 percent) of these highly happy Americans were Christians: Protestant, Catholic or Mormon.
Psychologists have landed on the idea of ‘oneness’ as the common thread running through spiritual people of all faiths.
The so-called ‘father of psychoanalysis,’ Sigmund Freud thought that all humans craved to return to the ‘oneness’ of being in their mother’s womb, connected in every way to her.
More contemporary psychologists have also put forth oneness as a personality trait that distinguishes people who seek and make more connections with others, the environment and their notion of a higher power or God.
Researchers at the University of Mannheim in Germany wanted to parse out how oneness affected life satisfaction across religions.
So, they surveyed over 67,000 non-students (using student samples is thought to limit and skew data on feelings of ‘oneness’ and self-reported life satisfaction) of unclear nationalities about their religious affiliations and used crafted questions to assess how connected and fulfilled these adults felt.
Among all groups, Muslims were most likely to believe that they were connected to something larger than themselves, according to the new study, published in the journal of the American Psychological Association.
Second to Muslims, Christians that considered themselves neither Catholics nor Protestants reported the greatest average oneness beliefs, followed by Buddhists and Hindus.
‘[The results] clearly indicate that the causal direction of the association between oneness beliefs and life satisfaction is in line with the assumptions derived from the literature: oneness beliefs are a significant determinant of life satisfaction over time, whereas there is no reversed effect of life satisfaction on oneness beliefs,’ study author Dr Laura Marie Edinger-Schons, a University of Mannheim psychologist, wrote.
Hinduism’s core belief is in truth.
But the single most important tenet in Islam is that of ‘Tawhid,’ the belief in the ‘invisible oneness concept of monotheism,’ or of one unifying god.
So, it’s perhaps no surprise that Muslims feel greatest sense of oneness.
‘This study broadens the knowledge on the psychology of religion, revealing not only the average level of oneness beliefs in the different religious groups but also exploring the effect of these beliefs on life satisfaction while controlling for the effect of religious affiliation,’ the researchers wrote.