‘Poorer nations find greater meaning in life’

New York, Dec 19: As countries become richer and less religious, their people enjoy greater longevity, health, happiness and satisfaction in life. Or do they?

A new study contends that it is those living in poorer nations that find greater meaning in life — owing primarily to strong religious beliefs.

“Thus far, the wealth of nations has been almost always associated with longevity, health, happiness or life satisfaction,” said Shigehiro Oishi, psychological scientist at the University of Virginia.

“Given that meaning in life is an important aspect of overall well-being, we wanted to look more carefully at differential patterns, correlates and predictors for meaning in life,” Oishi said.

When at many countries, including India, Oishi and colleague Ed Diener of the University of Illinois found that people in wealthier nations were more educated, had fewer children, and expressed more individualistic attitudes compared to those in poorer countries.

These factors were associated with higher life satisfaction but a significantly lower sense of meaning in life, they said.

Here, the researchers added that residents of wealthier nations, where religiosity is lower, reported less meaning in life and had higher suicide rates than poorer countries.

According to the study, religion may provide meaning in life to the extent that it helps people to overcome personal difficulties and cope with surviving in poor economic conditions.

“Religion gives a system that connects daily experiences with the coherent whole and a general structure to one’s lifeÂ… and plays a critical role in constructing meaning out of extreme hardship,” the researchers added.

Oishi and Diener investigated life satisfaction, meaning, and well-being by examining data from the 2007 Gallup World Poll, a large-scale survey of over 140,000 participants from 132 countries.

The findings of their research effort have been published in the latest edition of the journal Psychological Science.