Get access

Balm for The Soul: Immigrant Religion and Emotional Well-Being



Immigrants can face insurmountable odds in their acculturation to the new society, and subsequently suffer from poor emotional/mental health. Using immigrant data from the United States, Australia, and Western Europe, this paper tests the relationship between immigrant religious involvement and emotional well-being. Results demonstrate that regular religious participation is associated with better emotional/mental health outcomes. Conversely, non-religious group involvement (i.e., ethnic associations, leisure groups, work groups) do not have as equally a positive association with emotional well-being. This pattern is consistent across all countries examined in this study, suggesting that religion has a unique relationship with immigrant emotional well-being regardless of national context. Therefore, it is posited that in easing the emotional/mental adjustment of immigrants, religion is not an artifact of context or of a particular religious group, but a generality of immigrant adaptation. Policy implications for the study’s findings are discussed.

Yet to him, in his troubled state, Christianity brought also the miracle of redemption. Poor thing that he was, his soul was yet a matter of consequence. For him the whole drama of salvation had been enacted: God had come to earth, had suffered as a man to make for all men a place in a life everlasting. Through that sacrifice had been created a community of all those who had faith, a kind of solidarity that would redress all grievances and right all wrongs, if not now, then in the far more important aftermath to life. (Handlin, 1973 [1951]:93)