Study: Accountability to God Means a Greater Sense of Well-Being

Researchers found that the association between accountability to the divine and sense of psychological well-being was stronger in those who prayed more.

By Published on March 12, 2022

A recently published study sought to measure the difference that a sense of accountability to God made in terms of psychological well-being, as distinct from church attendance, prayer and meditation:

Religious believers who embrace accountability to God (or another transcendent guide for life) experience higher levels of three of the four variables of psychological well-being — mattering to others, dignity and meaning in their lives, though not happiness — according to a study from researchers with Baylor University, Westmont College and Hope College.

The study also found that this relationship is stronger among those who pray more often, suggesting that accountability coupled with communication may be a powerful combination for well-being.

LORIE FOGLEMAN, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY, “STUDY EXAMINES LINK BETWEEN ACCOUNTABILITY TO GOD AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING” AT NEUROSCIENCE NEWS (MARCH 2, 2022)

The data for the study, “Perceptions of Accountability to God and Psychological Well-Being Among US Adults” in Journal of Religion and Health relies on data from the 2017 Baylor Religion Survey, a national survey of American religious beliefs, values and behaviors.

One of the study authors commented,

“People who embrace theistic accountability see themselves as answerable to God,” said co-author Blake Victor Kent, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology at Westmont College. “They welcome responsibilities that are associated with their faith and view accountability to God as a gift that helps them lead happy and successful lives. Accountability has been examined philosophically as a virtue relevant to the spiritual life, but until now no one had quantified it.”

LORIE FOGLEMAN, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY, “STUDY EXAMINES LINK BETWEEN ACCOUNTABILITY TO GOD AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING” AT NEUROSCIENCE NEWS (MARCH 2, 2022) THE

That’s an interesting omission in the literature considering that religious scriptures stress the need for accountability.

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Why don’t the people who feel more accountable experience greater happiness?

… the researchers noted that the results for happiness were significant when they excluded other religious items from the analysis. This suggests that accountability matters but that it is also related to other facets of religious life such as the social aspects of attendance, which could matter more for happiness as part of a person’s psychological well-being.

“Further, it may be that happiness varies more on a daily basis compared with the other outcomes and may therefore be more strongly correlated with social and psychological factors that change quickly from day to day compared with relatively stable characteristics like accountability to God,” the researchers wrote.

LORIE FOGLEMAN, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY, “STUDY EXAMINES LINK BETWEEN ACCOUNTABILITY TO GOD AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING” AT NEUROSCIENCE NEWS (MARCH 2, 2022)

In short, a sense of accountability to God was not, in itself, a source of happiness; the happiness came from other aspects of the respondents’ faith such as the sense that one matters to others and of dignity and meaning. In any event, in a world where much is going wrong, a person who experiences a sense of accountability may find much to be unhappy about.

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