Religious Health-O-Meter (Infographic)

Infographic_ReligiousHealth-O-Meter_HighRes
Click here to see full-size image.

How It Works
The Religious Health-O-Meter evaluates the overall health of America’s eleven largest religious organizations by comparing combined factors related to happiness and devotion.

Each religious organization was ordered from highest to lowest by percentage of membership that meet the requirement in six categories. Each religion was scored on a scale from 1 to 11 (11 being the highest rank) for each of the six categories. Hindus, for example, scored a ‘10’ in the wealth category for having the second-highest percentage of wealthy members, whereas Evangelical Christians received a ‘4.’

The results were tallied from each of the six categories, giving each religion a composite score. The scores don’t reflect an actual indication of a religious people’s happiness and devotion, but simply make a comparison of each religion’s potential well-being to the others’.

Statistics were drawn from the Pew Research Religious Landscape Survey.

What the Facts Suggest
While no definitive conclusion can be made about a religious organization’s true well-being, it is is interesting to note that there is a clear discrepancy between wealth and education and religious devotion. Churches who scored high in wealth and education (Hindus and Jews, for example) scored quite low in religious devotion. Conversely, churches who scored low in wealth and education (Historically Black Churches and Jehovah’s Witnesses) scored high in religious devotion. Most of the churches remained somewhere in the middle. Mormons are the anomaly in this chart, as the only religious organization that scored high or relatively high in all six categories, making their composite score (55) much higher than the others.

Important Editor’s Note: While this infographic has interesting statistical value in the ordinal data in the bar graphs at the bottom, it is important to note that no real statistical comparison can be made between the religions using such data. The “Health-O-Meter” was intended by the author to point out an interesting, albeit superficial and statistically non-significant trend: that some religions score high in particular categories and low in others, and some high in all or low in all. But no real conclusions can be drawn about any religion’s “health” nor their actual statistical relationship to other religions with the data being used. The viewer is advised to draw their own conclusions about what the ordinal data might actually suggest. And, as the infographic suggests, readers are strongly encouraged to visit the original data, from the Pew Research Religion Landscape Survey. 

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    33 Responses

    1. Andrew
      Andrew November 13, 2013 at 8:42 pm | | Reply

      Fascinating! Thank you for visualizing this data!

    2. Paul
      Paul November 15, 2013 at 6:26 am | | Reply

      Really interesting! Thanks a ton.

      We should probably remember to take into account that some of these religions do not call for a weekly attendance in a place of worship, and others do not teach that a God in fact does answer prayers (or at least not very often). As such, it would be no surprise that the members of these groups did not go to church weekly, or feel that their prayers are answered. Is there other available criteria that could be used to measure religious devotion?

    3. Steven
      Steven November 15, 2013 at 4:31 pm | | Reply

      There’s got to be something to help us colorblind people more easily navigate these things.

    4. Teri
      Teri November 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm | | Reply

      Yea to being a mormon! I probably didn’t need to see a “meter” to tell me what I already know – that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has the restored gospel of Jesus Christ – but it was fun to see it in such a beautiful graphic. Thanks.

      1. Christopher
        Christopher November 19, 2013 at 9:32 pm | | Reply

        What are you so happy about? Mormonism actually scored quite average within the happiness factor. And I wouldn’t consider jumping into religious marriages anything to rave about (I know Mormons do this quite often, compared to a lot of other religions; less than a year of knowing the person.) On the religious devotional scales, you score above average but these are more so personal choices, rather than overall legitimacy of said religion. Therefore, it doesn’t hold as much weight to the “happiness scales,” in my opinion. “Answers to prayers,” is again, quite relative. Anyone can claim that they’re prayers were answered by God but, again, it doesn’t contribute to the actual legitimacy of Mormonism.

        1. Maggie
          Maggie November 20, 2013 at 8:06 am | | Reply

          Wow– it bothers you that a Mormon person is happy with their beliefs.

          Trying to tear down someone else won’t bring you happiness and fulfillment.

          Hope you can find happiness in your life too.

        2. hillplus
          hillplus December 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm | | Reply

          lol, Christopher. Jealous much? Threatened much?

          Anyone can destroy, why don’t you try to build up? Go enjoy your life and leave the poor Mormons alone.

      2. Tom Bartlett
        Tom Bartlett March 22, 2014 at 6:31 pm | | Reply

        yeah, terri because a chart PROVES the godpel is true, really sad.

    5. Bennett
      Bennett November 15, 2013 at 7:01 pm | | Reply

      While some of the smaller graphs are interesting, I’m appalled that you converted ordinal data to a ratio scale. It’s not that the Mormon group is “anomalous”, it’s that the aggregate scale is fatally flawed, violating the basic assumptions of logic and math.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Level_of_measurement

      1. matthew
        matthew November 16, 2013 at 7:18 pm | | Reply

        Well if you go in and add up the percentages from the charts bellow you will still find that the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints AKA Mormons still do have the highest percentage of 68.333 followed by Hindus at 61.666 percent

      2. John
        John November 16, 2013 at 9:34 pm | | Reply

        While possibly a little overly hostile, I’m inclined to agree with Bennett after delving into the wikipedia article a little bit. You can’t draw any real statistical conclusions from the larger “Healthometer” graph. Albiet the author did recognize this in a disclaimer:

        “The “Health-O-Meter” was intended by the author to point out an interesting, albeit superficial and statistically non-significant trend”

        It does point out that Mormons tend consistently score higher in these categories than the majority of religions considered in this study, but nothing more.

      3. John Pack
        John Pack December 14, 2013 at 8:16 pm | | Reply

        Aggregating such data isn’t particularly useful. However, it does show the LDS church as an anomaly — since it is never in the bottom half and, in four categories, is near the top.

    6. Peter
      Peter November 15, 2013 at 8:24 pm | | Reply

      Huh… the Mormons must be right.

    7. Dave Lane
      Dave Lane November 15, 2013 at 10:39 pm | | Reply

      I guess that including atheists in this graph would’ve skewed the graphs too far. Fair enough.

      1. hillplus
        hillplus December 14, 2013 at 2:14 pm | | Reply

        Why would atheists want to be included in a religious health study? Unless atheism is a new religion

    8. EmJ
      EmJ November 16, 2013 at 2:40 am | | Reply

      I’m confused by what is meant by religious “health.” Is it referring to the health of the individual member or the church/institution health? Is it a spiritual health? Is it health in that the support (in finance, education, and devotion) strengthens a church? Basically, what do these numbers mean in the real world and not just on a graph?

    9. EmJ
      EmJ November 16, 2013 at 4:54 am | | Reply

      This is an interesting graphic. I wonder what is meant by health of religious organizations. It’s says “combined factors related to happiness and devotion.” What are the happiness indicators then – wealth, education, marital status? And the devotion indicator prayers, intensity, attendance? So is the health determined in the sense of a hearty devout membership? Health in the temporal support its members offer to their respective churches? It says “potential well-being to others” but I’m not sure what that means? Can anyone explain a bit more?

    10. Jordan Meyer
      Jordan Meyer November 16, 2013 at 6:17 am | | Reply

      Do you know what the scale is for the number system? How did he assign the number from 1-11, was it based off a set scale? A world scale? Etc…..
      Is there a link a can read the entire study? It seems a little biased and I would love to read the whole thing to give credibility to it.

      1. matthew
        matthew November 16, 2013 at 7:20 pm | | Reply

        http://religions.pewforum.org/comparisons that is the sight that they got all of the data from

    11. Trevor
      Trevor November 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm | | Reply

      I think that “health” can easily be interpreted as a combination of the two factors, happiness, and devotion. The “health” of a religion is how happy and devoted its members are.

      Mormons being on top (on this scale) is really no surprise, since I’ve heard that in almost all other religions, the higher of an education you get, the less religious you are, whereas for Mormons it’s the opposite. And of course that translates usually to higher pay, putting them higher there, and marriage is very important in the faith, so no surprise there either. Not to mention the fact that it is very much believed that prayers can be answered and weekly attendance is important… and since it has a lay clergy everybody is very involved, which accounts for the religious intensity number.

      To be honest it’s almost like the survey questions were picked specifically to put Mormons on top, haha.

      1. kevin
        kevin November 17, 2013 at 7:33 pm | | Reply

        they actually have an unpaid clergy.

        1. Kaytee
          Kaytee November 18, 2013 at 2:57 am | | Reply

          Yes. All leadership is volunteered and unpaid. It’s not a job like other religions. The preacher in another church would consider that his profession. The Mormon leaders have careers outside of the faith.

          1. Dan Watson
            Dan Watson November 19, 2013 at 8:39 pm | | Reply

            That is the official line, but the truth is more nuanced. Though lower level leaders at the local level are not paid. The leadership at the intermediate and upper levels are paid. Many members of the church neglect to acknowledge this. All mission presidents, regional reps, and higher live in rent free homes and are compensated at substantial salaries.
            The big difference is most churches like Baptist are open about payments where the Mormons keep everything very secretive.

            1. Evan Maughan
              Evan Maughan November 19, 2013 at 11:36 pm |

              So secret that only you know about this Dan. LOL

              Sorry to break the conspiracy theory but it is not unknown or hidden. You also forgot to mention the church education system of institute and some seminary teachers are paid. Plus, most of those you mentioned have served many years in unpaid positions before being called to these positions. Finally, you failed to mention that for many called to these positions, they are often finacially independent and/or take a “pay cut” when they take these callings.

        2. JMI
          JMI November 19, 2013 at 6:43 pm | | Reply

          That’s what “lay clergy” (in the post you are replying to) means: unpaid, volunteer clergy….

    12. Adam
      Adam November 17, 2013 at 4:02 am | | Reply

      Without making any commentary about what the data mean I think it is important to note that the method you used for assigning points to groups based on their position within a category (first [11], second [10], last [1], etc.) is lacking. This method would only really work using the data for Attendance at a religious institution. For most of the data, it would have been more accurate to give weighted points based on the percentages of each category. For example, say each percentage point was worth 1 point, then Religious Intensity the Mormon group, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Evangelicals would all get 96, Hindus would get 85, etc. Otherwise, religious groups which have very close percentages would get very different point values. Doing all the analyses this way would reorder some of the groups (in order from highest to lowest: Mormons, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelical, Orthodox, Muslims, Jews/Mainline Christians (they tied), Catholics, Buddhists). If you would like to see my full analysis please comment back to me with your email.

    13. Richard
      Richard November 19, 2013 at 10:28 am | | Reply

      There are parts of this I find interesting, and parts that I find appalling. I like the graphical view of the pew data. The health meter part is not only devoid of information, but it takes poorly nurtured data and leads the reader to draw a conclusion that cannot be made from the original research.

      In fact, this is best highlighted by all of the mormon commentors on this post. By skewing the analysis the way it was, it appears that the health meter is saying “mormons are the best, Buddhists are the worst”.

      While I like the direction this infographic is going, I don’t like the place it went. Let me give some examples.

      As many point out, using the ranking system as opposed to a weighted evaluation hurts your graphic, even though it makes some religions look better and some worse.

      Second, why are the religious devotion related values equally weighted with the secular “happiness” values? There are three separate values that are all equal with each of the three secular happiness values. This inflates the importance of devotion on the “health” scale.

      Third, why “at least some college” for the education measure? Surely things would have come out differently if the numbers were “college graduate” or “post-grad”. Actually, they do come out different, here are some of those numbers: At least college grad (Mormons 28%, Hindu 74%, Buddhist 48%, Jewish 59%). In fact, some of the “front-runners” are the back of the pack when you look at “post-grad”, so how much education constitutes happiness? Is more better? Is this a linear relationship? Perhaps a measure that weighs higher education heavier would be better? What do the studies say?

      Fourth, similar to education, what about wealth? Why 50k+? In many religious families (traditional western/christian at least), higher devotion is correlated with larger families, you can hardly call 60k wealthy when you have 8 kids (like many fundamentalist christian families I know). How much money does it take to contribute to a happy family? Is this on a discrete or continuous scale? Wouldn’t at least 6 figures be a more reasonable approximation of wealth, especially when considering the aforementioned correlation? Change to at least 6 figure income, and the comparison skews dramatically.

      Fifth, there are other measures that are of interest. Such as: Mormons and Buddhists (the highest and lowest on your chart) are the top 2 “most satisfied” according to Q2 in the pew survey. Isn’t this, at the very least, a big factor to consider in health?

      Sixth, what about religious importance? This seems like a smaller factor, but it is given equal weight with all other 5. All religions scored high, but take into consideration that this is self-selecting, and that a more objective metric is probably more valuable (attendance, observance of required rites, etc.). Also, why did you choose Very Important + Somewhat Important, why not just Very, that changes the results a lot. In fact, there are several questions that measure conviction “How certain are you about this belief?”, these would be a better measure for religious importance, in my opinion. In fact, most studies that I have seen that equate religiosity with positive benefits usually find that it is a belief in god more than anything else, and there is a question to that effect.

      In fact, looking at the raw data, it seems that the main reason mormons score so highly in your analysis, is that they are the one religion that has the biggest spread on your measures. Many of your questions pick the top (or bottom) two categories and combine the results, mormons are usually equally spread between those (bimodal), where other religions usually are one or the other (unimodal) with a lot of mass falling outside of that small window.

      Finally, one issue I have with all surveys that deal with “happiness” is that there are a lot of heavily conservative (religiously, not necessarily politically) people that feel highly pressured towards perfectionism. They do not feel like they can let other people know that they aren’t happy, or aren’t perfectly devoted, don’t have a strong conviction, etc. etc. These pressures skew results for fundamentalist groups to be higher than they might be (dichotomously, such as Utah being the highest in Anti-depressant usage and the “happiest”, I think this is a result of an interesting interplay between culture, society, and religion).

      Anyway. Thank you for posting this. While I am not a fan of the analysis or the results, I appreciate the fact that you prompted me to look into the research. It was fun to look at all of these stats and to do some number crunching myself. Thank you for that.

    14. Mark Lichtenwalter
      Mark Lichtenwalter November 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm | | Reply

      The first presidency recieves pay. The twelve are paid and the first quorm of the seventy are paid. All others are unpaid. The pay ranges from around 50,000 to 500,000 a year plus travel expenses.

      1. Evan Maughan
        Evan Maughan November 19, 2013 at 11:50 pm | | Reply

        Mark, just clarifying something for non LDS readers. It is not just the 70s and the quorum of the twelve that receive pay. The church education system will pay institute and seminary teachers. Clerical, legal, and financial details that are handled at the church headquarters are also payed. Mission presidents receive pay and place to live during their time as a mission president and regional reps also have expenses and pay. One poster made it sound like a big secret but I’ve always known this and never figured out where someone like Dan got the idea it is a “secret”, hey,he figured it out.

        Most of these position require years of unpaid service and are obtained by calling. You can not “campaign” to become a mission president for example. A member will receive a calling, and they have to decide whether to accept it or not. Most do, even though it means giving up their current careers. Dalin Oaks was a supreme court justice, Russel M. Nelson was a famous heart surgeon, these are just a couple of examples of men who gave up very lucrative careers to serve in their callings and the Lord.

    15. Brit
      Brit November 19, 2013 at 9:34 pm | | Reply

      Let me guess, the creator of this infographic is Mormon?

    16. Wayne Walker
      Wayne Walker December 13, 2013 at 9:22 pm | | Reply

      Beyond the statistical aggregation issues, you might want to correct the spelling of Christian as in Evangelical Christian.

    17. Mike Peterson
      Mike Peterson December 15, 2013 at 7:13 pm | | Reply

      The explanations on this board of paid callings in the LDS church are innacurate and misleading.

      99% or higher of all members of the church throughout their lifetimes are not paid anything for their service.

      Even Bishops and Stake Presidents, the two highest local callings which require 30 hours per week average service time are paid nothing.
      They serve while continuing to be full time employed in their professions.

      Area Seventies also keep their current full-time employment.
      Mission Presidents are paid a very modest stipend for their service, which requires them to be completely away from their professions for three years.

      General Authorities such as First Quorum of Seventy, Apostles and First Presidency are paid modest stipends and typically earn far less than they did before their full time calls.

      All serve because of their love for the Savior and their testimonies of the work.

      Even seminary and institute teachers in the church education system earn modest pay, typically lower than public school teachers.

      If you are going to come online and talk about these things then please make sure your facts are straight.

    18. JackieCanuck
      JackieCanuck December 16, 2013 at 4:24 pm | | Reply

      note to Don Watson: my uncle was a Regional Representative for the LDS church (back when that position existed); then a mission president for 3 years. I can assure you, he wasn’t paid for that service! in either position…. he was already independently wealthy through his career as an accountant….Before that he was an (unpaid) Stake President; and before that, an unpaid Branch President and bishop. He volunteered many, many thousands of hours.
      My understanding is that if someone is needed/asked to fulfill a full-time LDS church position, and they can’t financially afford to leave their job/career, the Church will subsidize them. I can guess this might happen in South America, Africa, etc where many people don’t have career opportunities such as my uncle had. But I’ve never heard this “officially”; it’s just speculation. Don Watson is also just speculating.

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