August 31, 2010
Church Attendance Beats Shopping For Happiness?

More shopping or less church attendances reduces happiness?

BEER-SHEVA, ISRAEL, August 31, 2010 A new study conducted by a Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researcher, together with a researcher from De-Paul University, reveals that women in the United States generally derive more happiness from religious participation than from shopping on Sundays.

Additionally, the repeal of "blue laws," which allow stores to open on Sundays, has a negative effect on the level of religious participation of white women and therefore has a negative impact on their happiness. Interestingly, the authors did not observe any significant decline in reported happiness of other groups whose religious participation was not significantly affected by repeal.

I wonder whether the groups whose religious participation didn't drop also didn't shop as much on Sunday.

Reinstitute the ban on Sunday shopping in order to boost happiness by a substantial amount?

The research also reveals that when Sunday blue laws are repealed, women who choose secular activities, such as shopping, are not happier. The repeal of blue laws decreases the relative probability of being at least "pretty happy" relative to "not happy" by about 17 percent.

Did you know that the happiness of women has been on the decline for 3 decades? Women's liberation, movement into the workforce, divorcing their husbands (women initiate most divorces by a substantial margin), sexual liberation, and other changes have not made them happier. This guy thinks lifting of Blue Laws made women less happy.

According to Dr. Danny Cohen-Zada of BGU's Department of Economics, "We found that there is direct evidence that religious participation has a positive causal effect on a person's happiness. Furthermore, an important part of the decline in women's happiness during the last three decades can be explained by decline in religious participation."

Think about the evolutionary roles of hunter men and gatherer women. When shopping was illegal on Sundays the effect was to force women to take a break from gathering. Maybe the inability to act on the shopping instinct actually provides a relief, an ability to rest one's mind and enjoy what you already have.

Or maybe the problem for the gatherer woman with cash and credit card is that gathering is too easy with too many things for her to choose among.

The ability to easily satisfy immediate desires comes at the expense of long term satisfaction.

The authors speculate that respondents did not return to attending church as much even after they noticed that they were happier before the repeal because of a problem of self-control or the need for immediate satisfaction.

"People choose shopping, like watching TV, because it provides immediate satisfaction," Dr. Cohen-Zada explains. "That satisfaction lasts for the moment it's being consumed and not much longer than that. Religious participation, on the other hand, is not immediate. Instead, it requires persistence over a period of time."

We humans are no longer in our Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA). Since we are not adapted to the environments we have created with technology we need to look for signs of how we could modify our current environments in order to make us better adjusted and happier with our current environments.

Update: Greater ease of alcohol purchase in Sweden would increase the harm associated with alcohol consumption.

A study published today in the scientific journal Addiction argues that privatising Sweden's government monopoly on the sale of alcohol will significantly increase alcohol-related violence and other harms. Depending on the type of privatisation, experts predict that total alcohol consumption in Sweden will increase by 17 - 37%, with thousands more alcohol-related deaths, assaults, and drunk driving offences per year and up to 11 million more days of sick leave.

Does the state of Pennsylvania still operate state liquor stores?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 August 31 10:39 PM  Brain Happiness

PacRim Jim said at September 1, 2010 1:26 AM:

Personally, I can't afford to shop for happiness.

Among the cows in Iowa said at September 1, 2010 4:07 PM:

Money can't buy me love. (Just sex not worth having.)

Buster Dog said at September 3, 2010 6:40 PM:

What about the obvious? Worshiping God is an intrinsically more fulfilling thing to do than shopping? That materialism cannot compete with Christianity for producing well being? Why put all the evolutionary mumbo jumbo on what is obvious?

Randall Parker said at September 4, 2010 8:55 AM:

Buster Dog,

Unless the same research is conducted on believers of other religions we can't control for the effect specific to Christianity.

WJ Alden said at September 5, 2010 11:10 AM:

Does the state of Pennsylvania still operate state liquor stores?

Utah does. They are closed on Sundays, holidays, and even election days. They generally close at 10pm.

Being able to shop at any hour is nice, but being forced to plan a little is probably - from an emotional and performance perspective - nicer. People who maintain a certain regularity in their behavioral patterns tend to be better off. This I've learned from hard experience. Not being able to shop on Sunday, or at 2am, is a constraint that forces better planning and regularity.

Attending church is a communal experience that one cannot buy and that most people wouldn't generally obtain in any other way.

We will never again have blue laws, however, because (among many other reasons) doing so would advantage the internet, and states don't collect taxes from internet sales.

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