Your Best Investment in Mental Health: Religion?
In a study involving 10,000 individuals aged 13-24, 57% of those surveyed agreed their religious or spiritual practices positively impact their mental health and even more amongst young people who identified as religious at 73%. Many surveyed include prayer as part of their spiritual practice. 51% said they started to pray regularly during the pandemic. 74% of those who pray daily say they are flourishing compared to the 57% of those who never pray who say the same.
The Surgeon General issued an advisory last December on COVID-19’s “devastating” impact on youth mental health, this following already increasing concerns with more Gen-Zers reporting mental health concerns. Not just the pandemic, but issues such as immigration, sexual assault and mass shootings—the latter topping the list—are giving the current coming-of-age-generation sleepless nights, anxiety and depression.
Spiritual beliefs play a key role according to the survey. 74% of young people who identify as “very religious” agree they are “in good physical and emotional condition,” compared to 42% of non-religious young people who say the same. 70% currently connected to a spiritual or religious community report having “discovered a satisfying life purpose,” as compared to 55% of those who were but are no longer connected to such a community. Moreover 42% of those who feel highly connected to a higher power report they are flourishing in their emotional and mental health, compared to 16% of those who say they do not feel connected to a higher power.
A wrinkle in the report is that young people are not exactly rushing into their local religious institutions. Many of them opt for a more “fluid” approach to spirituality. Nevertheless, the spark is there: 62% of young people agree that there are parts of many religions or spiritualities they agree with and 48% agree they could fit in with many different religions or spiritualities.
Acknowledging that young people are not flocking to traditional religious communities, Springtide’s Executive Director, Josh Packard observed, “One of the things that has shifted in our society over the last 50 years is the level at which people trust institutions of all kinds, not just religious institutions,” and therefore he believes that religious communities will need to be creative in their interaction with young people.
Religion has been around—albeit evolving—for about as long as we have, certainly longer than Industrial Age newbies like psychology and psychiatry. It’s a safe bet that there is something deep and fundamental within us that can only be addressed and healed by knocking on the door of the spirit.
As Packard puts it, “Theology matters…your purpose for being on Earth is something only this segment of the population has cornered the market on.”