People who feel lonely but have a religion feel a greater sense of purpose in life than atheists, according to a new study.
University of Michigan researcher Todd Chan looked at three separate studies that asked over 19,000 people about their friendships, religious beliefs, feelings of loneliness and sense of purpose, the Daily Mail reports.
He concluded that among those who described themselves as lonely, those with a religion fared better than atheists because they were able to see God as a friend.
'For the socially disconnected, God may serve as a substitutive relationship that compensates for some of the purpose that human relationships would normally provide,' Chan said.
He said that those who fewer social connections could benefit from 'leveraging religion and turning to God as a friend.'
Co-author of the study, Nicholas Michalak, said the research suggests that those who lack friends but feel more connected to God 'will have a better sense of purpose in life.'
Another member of the research team, psychology professor Oscar Ybarra, cautioned however that people should not rely solely on God for social fulfillment.
'These results certainly do not suggest that people can or should rely on God over people for purpose,' he said. 'Quality human connections still remain a primary and enduring source of purpose in life.'