Harvard University and Baylor University are launching the largest study of its kind to look at well-being outcomes for 240,000 individuals in 22 countries and the role of religion will also be included.

“The Global Flourishing Study” is set to last five years and cost $43.4 million, officials said. The team will be able to examine all of the world’s great religions and the role, if any, that they play in human flourishing, said Project Director Dr. Byron Johnson, distinguished professor of the social sciences and director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor. 

The study is being funded by a number of global organizations including the John Templeton Foundation and the Templeton Religion Trust.

The research will lean on the data collection and management expertise of Gallup and the stakeholder coordination and open science leadership of the Center for Open Science. The team will be asking a number of key questions, such as: What does it mean to live well? To be truly healthy? To thrive? 

Researchers and clinicians usually focus on the presence or absence of various pathologies such as disease, family dysfunction, mental illness, or criminal behavior. But such a “deficits” approach explains only so much about what makes for a life well-lived as opposed to what it means to flourish, officials said.

“The Global Flourishing Study is exactly the type of work needed to deeply understand the interplay of key elements in human experience that help us live well, be happy, and experience a sense of meaning and purpose,” said project co-director Dr. Tyler VanderWeele, the John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Epidemiology and Director of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard. He has published articles on the assessment of human flourishing in leading scientific journals such as JAMA and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

“The longitudinal research design will allow us to substantially advance scientific knowledge on the determinants of human flourishing,” VanderWeele said.

Susan Barreto
Susan Barreto

Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.

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