Faith or Social Foci? Happiness, Religion, and Social Networks in Sweden

Christofer Edling, Jens Rydgren, Love Bohman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, we study 19-year-olds in Sweden (n = 2,942) with and without an immigration background (Iran, Yugoslavia, and Sweden). We follow-up on a recent study, which shows that religion and happiness tend to be positively associated at the individual level only in countries with high aggregate levels of religiosity and proposes that what affects happiness is not religiosity per se but conformity to the standard in one’s country. We take these results a step further and study the relationship between religion and happiness across immigrant groups that have significantly different experiences of religion. Are we more likely to find a positive association between religion and happiness among young Swedes with parents born in Iran and Yugoslavia than among those with two Sweden-born parents? And do these associations depend on their sense of affiliation with Sweden? We argue that there are strong theoretical reasons to assume that previous results also apply to the observed association between religious networks and happiness, and we study to what extent previous results can be generalized to societies like Sweden, which has a very low aggregate level of religiosity, and whether that effect differs by immigration background. The results show that religion and religiousness per se have little impact on happiness. In particular, we find that social networks tend to be positively associated with happiness, and that this effect is driven by co-organizational membership among friends.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-626
JournalEuropean Sociological Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

First published online 07 August 2014.

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Free keywords

  • Social networks
  • happiness
  • religion


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