The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development published their “Better Life Index” this week, and it had some rather interesting things to say about Ireland.
In particular, it showed that we have one of the highest levels of volunteerism in the developed world.
According to the report, on average, “people in Ireland spend 8 minutes per day in volunteering activities, one of the highest figures in the OECD where the average is 4 minutes per day”.
It found that nearly 59pc reported have helped a stranger in the last month, a full 12pc higher than the OECD average of 47pc.
It also found that Ireland had a high level of social connectedness. Ninety eight percent of people said that they knew someone they could rely on in a time of need, one of the highest rates in the OECD where the average is 91pc.
Further, barely three percent of people in Ireland reported ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ spending time with friends, colleagues or others in social settings; this figure is less than half the OECD average of seven percent.
We also know that Ireland still has a far higher level of religious practice and belief than many other OECD countries, a source of some consternation to our noisy coterie of aggressive secularists.
Professor Robert Putnam, one of the world's foremost experts on volunteerism and social connectness has acknowledged that religious people tend to be more socially connected, more charitable and more likely to volunteer. Numerous studies, including a recent US study on levels of religious practice, confirm this.
Given all of these facts, it hardly seems a stretch to suggest that Ireland's significantly higher levels of volunteerism, charitable action and social connectedness are at least partially linked to our relatively high levels of religiosity.
Is it asking too much that we acknowledge the beneficial contribution made by religion to Irish culture?