Clinical and Research News
Risk-Taking Behavior Linked to Religiosity, Researcher Suggests
Psychiatric News
Volume 38 Number 3 page 25-25

Women are one-and-a-half times more likely to be religious than men are in Japan. The same is true for women in Bulgaria—and pretty much the same for women in Russia, Venezuela, and Albania.

In fact, in 49 countries throughout the world women are more religious than men, and with the exception of only one case—Brazil—the differences are significant or highly significant statistically.

These findings come from Rodney Stark, Ph.D., a University of Washington professor of sociology and comparative religion.

"The gender differences hold up everywhere, even in religions that are very male centered, such as Orthodox Judaism," Stark said in a press release from the University of Washington in December. "This is not some fragile finding, and the fact that it shows up in so many cultures says something."

But what does it say? Stark has a hunch that men tend to be less religious than women because they are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors. In other words, their willingness to take chances with a displeased deity might be comparable to their willingness to take chances on killing themselves or others or on being jailed.

Stark’s findings stem from his scrutiny of data collected by the World Values Surveys. These surveys were planned by an international committee of social scientists, translated into local languages, and conducted by local polling organizations.

The question on the survey regarding religiousness was, "Whether you go to church or not, would you say that you are a religious person?" In every instance, a higher percentage of women than men answered yes to this question, and in every country but Brazil the differences were statistically significant. Specifically, the rates of women to men who said they were religious ranged from 1.06 for Poland to 1.69 for Estonia, with the ratios of the other countries falling in between.

Stark published his findings in the September issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

A summary of the paper, "Physiology and Faith: Addressing the ‘Universal’ Gender Difference in Religious Commitment," is posted on the Web at http://las.alfred.edu/~soc/SSSR/JSSR.htm.

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