Researchers from the University of Oregon and Simon Fraser University conducted three studies into the beliefs of Heaven and Hell. They used data from the Gallup World Poll, the World Values Survey and the European Values Survey.
“We find that a belief in Heaven is consistently associated with greater happiness and life satisfaction while a belief in Hell is associated with lower happiness and life satisfaction at the national and individual level,” the study states. “An experimental priming study suggests that these differences are mainly driven by the negative emotional impact of Hell beliefs.”
Azim Shariff and Lara Aknin compared differences in subjective well-being between 63 countries against the national rates of those who believe in heaven and hell and interviewed 422 Americans through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk survey site. They also conducted a large-scale correlational study using World Values Survey and European Values Survey.
Of the 57 percent of Americans who stated they were religious, 82 percent of them said they were Christian, 8 percent said other and the other 10 percent were made up of Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists.
The participants were assigned to one of three conditions: to write 100 to 200 words about their conception of Hell, to write about their conception of Heaven, and asked to write about what they did yesterday.
They were also asked to rate the seven emotions they were feeling: happiness, sadness, guilt,security, shame, fear and calmness.
“Participants who wrote about Hell reported significantly less happiness and more sadness than those who wrote about Heaven, or those in the neutral writing condition,” the researchers found.
The researchers concluded that believing in Hell lowers a person’s well-being.
“Two large-scale correlational studies conducted with international data sets showed that, controlling for each other, Hell beliefs were associated with lower well-being at the national level and individual level, whereas Heaven beliefs were associated with higher well-being,” the study said. “Furthermore, an experiment using an online sample of Americans shows consistent findings; priming participants with Hell leads to lower levels of positive emotion and higher levels of negative emotion, compared to controls.”
The study was published in PLOS ONE last month.