Study: Having strong sense of ‘oneness’ linked to greater life satisfaction

WASHINGTON — Whether you’re religious or not, believing in oneness — the idea that all people and parts of the world and universe are connected in some way — leads to greater life satisfaction, a new study suggests.

People influenced by feelings of oneness believe everything is interdependent and that no one thing carries greater value than another because neither can exist without the other. They might believe that everything happens for a reason, divine or not. For more religious individuals, oneness can also be viewed as all people under the same God share an interconnectedness.

“The feeling of being at one with a divine principle, life, the world, other people or even activities has been discussed in various religious traditions but also in a wide variety of scientific research from different disciplines,” explains the study’s author, Laura Marie Edinger-Schons, PhD, of the University of Mannheim, in a statement. “The results of this study reveal a significant positive effect of oneness beliefs on life satisfaction, even controlling for religious beliefs.”

For her study, Edinger-Schons used data from nearly 75,000 people in Germany who took part in one of two surveys. The first survey involved more than 7,000 participants who rated various concepts related to oneness and their belief in statements, such as, “I believe that everything in the world is based on a common principle,” or “Everything in the world is interdependent and influenced by each other.” Concepts considered by participants included things like connectedness, empathy, and life satisfaction.

She found that people who had higher levels of oneness reported significantly greater life satisfaction.

A second survey of more than 67,000 people from diverse religious backgrounds — including Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Protestants, Buddhists — examined whether oneness was linked to life satisfaction more than religion was. Atheists were also included and represented about a quarter of those who identified their religious beliefs.

Edinger-Schons found that levels of oneness tended to vary based on religion, with Muslims scoring the highest levels and atheists the least. But she also determined that oneness was a greater predictor of satisfaction than one’s religious beliefs.

“I did not find it surprising that atheists have the lowest levels of oneness beliefs in the sample, but what surprised me was that oneness beliefs were actually very different across various religious affiliations, with Muslims having the highest levels,” she says. “Also, when oneness beliefs were taken into account, many of the positive effects of religious affiliation on life satisfaction disappeared.”

She notes that activities like yoga, meditation, or sports can help boost oneness in people, and that doing so can enhance one’s life more than simply turning to religion alone.

Prior research has shown that people who have higher life satisfaction tend to perform better in school and have better health in old age.

The research was published in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.