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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 is summarized by the LIFE (Love, Insight or Wisdom, Fortitude, and Engagement) framework proposed by Ho (2014). 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).

Recommended Citation

Ho, L. S. (2023). Spirituality, religiosity, and happiness: Identifying the nexus (SERC Working Paper Series). Retrieved from