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Wealth Linked to Feeling Less Meaning in LIfe

Update Date: Dec 19, 2013 05:34 PM EST

People with greater life satisfaction are more likely to live "less meaningful" lives, a new study suggests.

New research reveals that people living in wealthy nations have greater life satisfaction. However, living in poorer nations report having greater meaning in life.

The latest findings suggest that meaning in life may be higher in poorer nations as a result of greater religiosity.

Researchers explain that religion and life become less countries become richer.

"Thus far, the wealth of nations has been almost always associated with longevity, health, happiness, or life satisfaction," psychological scientist Shigehiro Oishi of the University of Virginia, said in a news release. "Given that meaning in life is an important aspect of overall well-being, we wanted to look more carefully at differential patterns, correlates, and predictors for meaning in life."

Researchers assessed life satisfaction, meaning and wellbeing by looking t data from the 007 Gallup World Poll, a large-scale survey of over 140,000 participants from 132 countries. Participants were also asked: "Do you feel your life has an important purpose or meaning?" and "Is religion an important part of your daily life?"

Researchers said the study revealed some pretty surprising trends.  The study revealed Americans who are high in life satisfaction are also high in meaning in life.

"But when we looked at the societal level of analysis, we found a completely different pattern of the association between meaning in life and life satisfaction," Oishi said in a news release.

The study revealed that people in wealthier nations were more educated, had fewer children, and expressed more individualistic attitudes compared to those living in poorer countries. While all these factors were linked with higher life satisfaction, they were also linked to a significantly lower sense of meaning in life.

The findings show that people living in wealthier countries, where religiosity is lower, reported less meaning in life and had higher suicide rates than poorer countries. Researchers said the findings suggest that religion may provide meaning in life to the extent that it helps people conquer struggles and difficulties living in countries of poor economic means.

"Religion gives a system that connects daily experiences with the coherent whole and a general structure to one's life...and plays a critical role in constructing meaning out of extreme hardship," researchers concluded.

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science.

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