Nav: Home

Friending God increases purpose in life in the socially disconnected

August 30, 2018

ANN ARBOR--Religious people who lack friends and purpose in life turn to God to fill those voids, according to new University of Michigan research.

Belonging is related to a sense of purpose. When people feel like they do not belong or unsupported by their relationships, they consistently have a lower sense of purpose and direction in life, says lead author Todd Chan, a doctoral student in the U-M Department of Psychology.

Chan and colleagues say that having a belief system that adequately "substitutes" for some of the functions of human relationships, like having a God that values and supports them, may allow socially disconnected people to restore some of this purpose.

"For the socially disconnected, God may serve as a substitutive relationship that compensates for some of the purpose that human relationships would normally provide," Chan said.

In three separate studies, the U-M researchers analyze the responses from 19,775 people who described their purpose in life, levels of loneliness, the quality of their friendships and religious beliefs.

These beliefs generally provide social comfort. The research shows that seeing God as your friend when you are already socially connected actually provides minimal additional benefit for purpose in life.

"In other words, people mostly benefit from leveraging religion and turning to God as a friend only when they lack supportive social connections," Chan said.

This research also informs how people can cope with disconnection when other people are unavailable or unappealing. To feel less disconnected, people would ideally "get out there" and improve their social contacts, but this is not always feasible given that an inherent part of social disconnection is that people have poor relationships or are rejected, the researchers say.

The new U-M study continues previous research showing that people who are socially disconnected are more likely to see human-like qualities in things like pets, imaginary beings and God.

"Our research suggests, given two people who feel equally disconnected, the individual who feels more connected to God will have a better sense of purpose in life," said co-author Nicholas Michalak, a psychology graduate student.

Although the results suggest that religion and God compensate for lost purpose in the socially disconnected, it did not restore purpose to a level comparable to that of people who are socially connected.

"These results certainly do not suggest that people can or should rely on God over people for purpose," said co-author Oscar Ybarra, professor of psychology and faculty associate at the U-M Institute for Social Research. "Quality human connections still remain a primary and enduring source of purpose in life."

In addition, the findings do not suggest that people who are socially disconnected are more likely to become religious if they were not already.

The study appeared in the Journal of Personality.
-end-
Study abstract: When God is your only friend: Religious beliefs compensate for purpose in life in the socially disconnected

Todd Chan: https://lsa.umich.edu/psych/people/graduate-students/toddchan.htm

Nicholas Michalak: https://lsa.umich.edu/psych/people/graduate-students/nickmm.html

Oscar Ybarra: https://lsa.umich.edu/psych/people/faculty/oybarra.html

University of Michigan

Related Relationships Articles:

'Feeling obligated' can impact relationships during social distancing
In a time where many are practicing 'social distancing' from the outside world, people are relying on their immediate social circles more than usual.
We can make predictions about relationships - but is this necessary?
'Predictions as to the longevity of a relationship are definitely possible,' says Dr Christine Finn from the University of Jena.
Disruptions of salesperson-customer relationships. Is that always bad?
Implications from sales relationship disruptions are intricate and can be revitalizing.
Do open relationships really work?
Open relationships typically describe couples in which the partners have agreed on sexual activity with someone other than their primary romantic partner, while maintaining the couple bond.
The 7 types of sugar daddy relationships
University of Colorado Denver researcher looks inside 48 sugar daddy relationships to better understand the different types of dynamics, break down the typical stereotype(s) and better understand how these relationships work in the United States.
Positive relationships boost self-esteem, and vice versa
Does having close friends boost your self-esteem, or does having high self-esteem influence the quality of your friendships?
Strong family relationships may help with asthma outcomes for children
Positive family relationships might help youth to maintain good asthma management behaviors even in the face of difficult neighborhood conditions, according to a new Northwestern University study.
In romantic relationships, people do indeed have a 'type'
Researchers at the University of Toronto show that people do indeed have a 'type' when it comes to dating, and that despite best intentions to date outside that type -- for example, after a bad relationship -- some will gravitate to similar partners.
Advancing dementia and its effect on care home relationships
New research published today in the journal Dementia by researchers from the University of Chichester focuses on the effects of behavioral change due to dementia in a residential care home setting.
Passion trumps love for sex in relationships
When women distinguish between sex and the relational and emotional aspects of a relationship, this determines how often couples in long-term relationships have sex.
More Relationships News and Relationships Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.