Religiosity and subjective and psychological well-being in contemporary Japan
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Relationships between religion and health have received considerable academic attention. Scholars have published hundreds of articles concerning links between religion and mortality and physical, subjective, and psychological well-being. Despite the practical and scholarly importance of these studies, do similar relationships exist in nonChristian, non-Western societies? In this dissertation I employ qualitative and quantitative methods of research to examine connections between common religious beliefs and practices and general, subjective, and psychological well-being in contemporary Japan. Ritual behaviors and beliefs in Japan differ substantially from those of the U.S., and as expected, there are important cultural distinctions concerning these associations. However, there are similarities that are equally noteworthy, and I discuss these findings and describe theoretical rationales that help explain how and why Japanese religiousness is linked positively and negatively to well-being in Japan. The first chapter provides an overview of some of the core aspects of contemporary Japanese religiousness, and I introduce new findings from a large national dataset of Japanese adults concerning religious affiliation. In the second chapter, I use in-depth interview data to support theoretical explanations concerning associations between typical household ritual practices and general well-being. The third chapter reveals strong positive correlations between life satisfaction and happiness (subjective well-being) and religious affiliation and devotion. In the final chapter, I use multivariate analysis again to explore links between psychological distress (measured by the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale) and religiousness. The data for this chapter come from a selfadministered survey I designed to address the lack of valid survey questions concerning religious practices and beliefs in Japan and to assess their ties with mental health. Overall, the results of these separate studies indicate strongly that religiosity is multidimensional and that different dimensions impact Japanese well-being in diverse ways. They also provide substantial evidence for the need to be cautious when conducting cross-cultural research. This dissertation aims to fill a void concerning the study of religion and health in a non-Christian Asian nation, and it is hoped that these findings will encourage further research on this topic in Japan and in other areas of the world.