A new research project on young adults spanning 25 nations shows that those attending church on a regular basis experience less mental health issues than those whose who don’t.
A majority the 15,369 people surveyed between the ages of 18 and 35 in the massive global study who attended weekly worship services reported having a more positive outlook on life than their peers who seldom or never attend.
A joint venture between the Barna Group and World Vision, called “The Connected Generation,” set out to distinguish the importance of faith in the lives of young people globally, and Barna Group Editorial Director Alyce Youngblood, who also serves as senior writer for the expansive project, found that regular biblical teaching grounds the younger generation in a more stable state of mind and spirit.
“The research reveals a generation of driven adults who are wary and weary, wrestling with questions, longing for deeper relationships and facing significant societal, professional and personal obstacles, yet, we also found that faith is one important factor associated with their well-being, connection and resilience,” Youngblood stressed in the Connected Generation report.
Key findings reveal that optimism is more prevalent with people of faith grounded in the Bible.
“When it came to having hope for the future, people of faith again felt much more positive,” CBN News revealed from the report’s results. “Just over half of practicing Christians (51%), said they were ‘optimistic about the future,’ compared to just 34% of those with no faith.”
Attitudes enabling people to make a difference in the world and succeed in life are more likely in those who are rooted in the Bible and immersed in Christian fellowship.
“People with no faith were also more likely to experience regular feelings of loneliness and depression than people of faith,” CBN News’ Will Maule explained from the study. “When it came to having a sense of motivation, Christians again responded very differently, [as] 29% of non-believers said they felt ‘able to accomplish goals,’ but it jumped up to 43% amongst Christians.”
Barna Group President David Kinnaman said the study is key to understanding how the Bible changes lives globally.
“In addition to providing many hopeful signs about the opportunities ahead of these generations, the study shows powerful connections between practicing faith and overall well-being,” Kinnaman explained, according to Christian Today.
He found that God and His Word are a safeguard against many of the pitfalls to which youth and adults frequently succumb.
“From this report we do see evidence that some key mentorships and friendships are common among young people with a faith, and patterns in the data at least suggest religion may play some role in keeping loneliness at bay,” Kinnaman added before reciting Pslam 42:11. “’Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.’”
According to the study, debilitating fear and depression are more of a major factor in people’s lives who don’t attend church.
“It found that those who attended a place of worship on a weekly basis were less likely to say that they experienced anxiety (22%), compared with those who did not attend church regularly (33%),” Christian Today noted. “Young people with no faith were more likely to say they often felt sad or depressed (28%) than practicing Christians (18%), and they were also more likely to report feeling ‘lonely and isolated from others’ (31% vs 16%).”
Doubt and lack of charity were also more prevalent amongst unbelievers.
“Those without a faith were twice as likely as those with an active faith to say they felt ‘uncertain about the future’ (51% vs 27%),” Christian Today added. “The study also revealed substantial differences when it came to giving time and money, with young churchgoers far more likely than those without a faith to regularly volunteer (39% vs 23%) and give financially to charitable causes (23% vs 17%).”
World Vision UK CEO Tim Pilkington wants the study to inspire pastors around the youth to see how crucial it is for them to ground youth with the biblical tools and fellowship they need to live out God’s purpose in their lives – instead of being sucked up in the secular vacuum that ultimately leads to hopeless or despair.
“I hope church leaders will be encouraged by the confirmation that the local church can be a place of leadership development, empowerment and a source of genuine hope," Pilkington expressed, according to Christian Today.
Woes in an Internet age
The study also found that even though the expansion of the Internet has connected the world more than ever, many still feel disengaged from others around them, as they feel “connected but alone.”
Some 77% of those surveyed agreed with the statement, “Events around the World matter to me,” while 57% related to the statement, “I feel connected to the people around the world,” but at home, in their communities, at work and at school, this does not appear to be the case.
“The vast majority of the connected generation feel the impact of broad, global trends more than they feel loved and supported by others close to them – morethan they feel optimistic and empowered and more than they express an outward orientation to change and personal activism,” the Connected Generation study disclosed. “Despite being a hyper-connected and globally minded generation, many young adults say they feel lonely – and just one in three (33%) says they feel deeply cared for by those around them.”
Connectivity with those rooted at church is higher.
“There is some good news for churches: Strong levels of connectivity are associated with faith in general and with Christianity in particular,” the study revealed.
Transform World Southeast Asia Regional Co-Facilitator Juliette Arulrajah warned that today’s generation must be wary of social media and use it productively.
“Social media – a boon to lifestyles in so many ways – needs to be stewarded wisely and with integrity to maximize its potential for the good of humankind,” Arulrajah commented in the study.
Breeding fear, hopelessness?
Secular influences appear to be breeding fear and doubt in 18-35-year-olds globally.
“Anxiety about important decisions is widespread (40%), as well as uncertainty about the future (40%), a fear of failure (40%) and a pressure to be successful (36%) [were major factors, as] financial and professional stability are among the greatest predictors of worry and insecurity – a story consistent with this career-minded age group’s stage of life,” the study revealed. “These stressors come with a sense of being on one’s own; patterns of loneliness sharpen among these anxious young adults.”
But it was different for those immersed in church.
“Faith communities, however, may be seen as facilitators of healthy, holistic connection for burdened 18–35-year-olds,” the study noted.
Tracy Trinita, an apologist for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries noted how secular universities can drag down even believers.
“I asked a youth worker at a church in the U.K. what she sees as the three most common problems found among the Christian students at Oxford University,” Trinita shared in the study. “Her answer: ‘First, depression. Second, loneliness. And third, a yearning about their calling in life.’”