Spirituality, religiosity, and happiness : identifying the nexus

Lok Sang HO*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Using data from 52 countries in Wave 5 of the World Value Survey conducted during 2004 and 2008, we test two alternative approaches in spirituality measures. The first is based on the more traditional understanding that spirituality is associated with meanings, God, prayers/meditation and formal religions. The second is based on the common spiritual teachings of all the major religions that are summarized by the LIFE (Love, Insight or Wisdom, Fortitude and Engagement) framework proposed by Ho, LS (2014). Psychology and Economics of Happiness: Love, Life and Positive Living. Oxford: Routledge. It was found that this alternative approach, which focuses on the spiritual teachings rather than theology, offers better explanatory power for Total Life Satisfaction (TLS). An interesting finding is that under this specification the coefficient on meaning turned negative, suggesting that those whose lives are weak in Love, Insight, Fortitude and Engagement have yet to find meaning and are less happy. Through a series of stepwise regressions, we conclude that more spiritual people are indeed happier (H1); that religious people indeed tend to be happier mainly because religious people tend to be more spiritual (H2); that the essence of spirituality and meaning lies in Love, Insight, Fortitude and Engagement (H3). These virtues are all grounded on transcending the narrow self and on a “reverence for Life” as propounded by Schweitzer. Finally, religious attendance does promote happiness. The effect is small but stable and statistically significant. It may have to do with the social network this offers (H4).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalSingapore Economic Review
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
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  • Religiosity
  • spirituality
  • transcendence
  • meaning
  • reverence for life
  • love, insight, fortitude, engagement
  • mental capital


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