Religion and well-being: The moderating role of culture and the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene

Joni Y. Sasaki, Heejung S. Kim, Jun Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Research suggests that religiosity, or the importance of religion in one's life, may be related to well-being, but little is known about how culture and genes may play a role in this relationship. Given that religion in a North American cultural context tends to emphasize social affiliation less than in an East Asian cultural context and that some people may be genetically predisposed to be more socially sensitive than others, the way religion is linked to well-being may depend on the interplay between cultural context and genetic make-up. The current study examined how culture (i.e., European Americans vs. Koreans) and a specific gene polymorphism (i.e., oxytocin receptor polymorphism rs53576) may interact to impact the association between religiosity and psychological well-being. Results showed that among people who were more genetically predisposed toward social sensitivity (i.e., G/G genotype), Koreans had greater psychological well-being if they were more religious; however, European Americans with the G/G genotype had lower psychological well-being if they were more religious. These findings suggest that religion may benefit well-being for those who are genetically predisposed to be socially sensitive but only to the extent that the cultural context provides adequate opportunities for social affiliation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1394-1405
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by National Science Foundation Human Social Dynamic Grants BCS-0729532 and BCS-0734230.


  • culture
  • genes
  • health
  • OXTR
  • oxytocin
  • religiosity
  • well-being


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