Religion and Subjective Well-Being in Chinese College Students: Does Meaningfulness Matter?

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Summary

Studies from the West have reported a positive relationship between religion and mental health, and yet research on the relationship between religiosity and well-being among Chinese is rare. The present study investigated this relationship in a representative sample of Chinese college students. From a total sample of 11139 college students in 16 universities nationwide, 1418 students with self-reported religious beliefs were selected. We assessed religiosity (organizational, non-organizational, and intrinsic/extrinsic religiosity), subjective well-being (life satisfaction), psychological distress (depression & anxiety), and meaning in life. In addition, qualitative interviews were conducted with 10 psychologically distressed and 10 non-distressed religious students. Results indicated that religiosity was associated with higher life satisfaction, a relationship partially mediated by meaning in life. Unexpectedly, religiosity was also associated with higher depressive and anxiety symptoms. Qualitative interviews revealed that distressed religious believers suffered from greater mental distress before becoming involved in religion, compared to non-distressed religious students.

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