People who embrace a sense of unity and oneness — the idea that everything in the world is connected and interdependent, appear to have greater life satisfaction than those who don’t, regardless of whether they belong to a religion or don’t, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
Transcendentally or spiritually, millions around the world have reported a sense of oneness through psychedelics where many experience an increase in one’s sense of purpose and unity with a something perceived as more unifying than humanity, but few studies have followed thousands of people reporting the same experience.
Edinger-Schons conducted two surveys involving nearly 75,000 people in Germany. In the first survey, more than 7,000 participants, recruited as part of a cooperation project between the university and a company, were asked to respond to a series of statements designed to measure their belief in oneness (e.g., “I believe that everything in the world is based on a common principle” or “Everything in the world is interdependent and influenced by each other”). They were also asked to respond to items measuring other concepts associated with oneness, such as social connectedness, connectedness to nature and empathy as well as life satisfaction.
Edinger-Schons found a significant correlation between scores on her oneness scale and the concepts associated with oneness, suggesting that it was a valid measure of the concept. More important, she also found that people with higher oneness scores reported significantly greater life satisfaction.
To determine whether oneness scores were variable over time or a more fixed construct, the same survey was administered to the same group of people six weeks later. While a little more than 3,000 of them responded, Edinger-Schons still found that oneness beliefs had not changed significantly and therefore might be stable over time.
“Obviously, oneness beliefs are more than a situation-specific feeling or mood,” she said. “They rather seem to represent a general attitude toward life.”
Once again, she also found a significant correlation between oneness beliefs and life satisfaction. While being satisfied with life as a whole should be rewarding in itself, research does suggest that people with higher life satisfaction experience some additional benefits, such as increased academic performance in younger people and better health in old age, according to Edinger-Schons.
In a second survey, involving more than 67,000 people, Edinger-Schons looked at whether oneness beliefs could explain individuals’ life satisfaction over and above the effect of religion. Much research has been done on the association between religion and life satisfaction, but she wondered if there might not be something else at work. Specifically, her hypothesis was that oneness beliefs might explain peoples’ satisfaction with life even better than religion.