Religion, deprivation and subjective wellbeing: Testing a religious buffering hypothesis

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William James Hoverd
Chris G. Sibley


The buffering effect of religion upon wellbeing has been well demonstrated; however, the question of whether this buffering effect also extends to protecting the religious against material hardship still requires investigation. We present a Bayesian linear regression model showing that religious affiliation provides a protective buffer against the corrosive effects on subjective wellbeing of living in impoverished conditions. Results from a national probability sample tested with an objective indicator of the deprivation of participants’ local neighbourhood, derived from census data, indicated that religious people living in deprived neighbourhoods were higher in subjective wellbeing than their non-religious counterparts living in those same neighbourhoods (N = 5,984 New Zealanders). It was in impoverished conditions that the difference in wellbeing between religious and non-religious people was apparent; those living in affluent neighbourhoods showed comparably high levels of subjective wellbeing regardless of whether or not they were religious. Our results explore new ground by showing for the first time that the buffering effect of religion is readily apparent within New Zealand.

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Author Biographies

William James Hoverd, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Adjunct Research Associate

Religious Studies

Chris G. Sibley, University of Auckland

Senior Lecturer

School of Psychology