Study Shows Christians Who Are Active in their Faith Less Likely to Suffer Depression than Nonbelievers

Recent studies from leading research institutions around the globe reveal that Christians who actively practice their faith are less likely to suffer from mental health issues like depression, less likely to experience loneliness and isolation during global crises, more likely to be hopeful and have life contentedness, and more likely to practice philanthropy.

In the U.K., researchers conducted two studies that concluded that religious believers struggled less from emotional turmoil during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the stronger their faith and practices, the less they suffered.

Similarly, another study conducted in the U.S. uncovered that regular church attenders were the least likely Americans to self-describe as isolated, far more likely to feel life contentedness, and far more likely to volunteer for charitable causes.

“Being religious significantly reduces the negative mental health outcomes associated with COVID-19,” said researchers based in the U.K., Australia and India.

Meanwhile, they “[found] that the worsening of mental health associated with COVID-19 was around 60% higher for non-religious individuals compared to individuals with similar characteristics having average levels of religiosity.”

In the study, researchers controlled for “intersectionality-based criteria” like race, sex and employment status, and found that “only religiosity has a significant ameliorating effect of COVID on mental health.”

However, researchers found that the benefits of religion on mental health are “strongly driven by attendance at religious services,” not solely by prayer or belief. Thus, areas that had “higher lockdown strictness,” which prevented Christians from attending church services, “eroded any benefits that emanated from being religious.”

Yet while under lockdown, Christians who attended online church services retained “modestly lessened… suffering.”

Another study conducted in the U.K. claimed similar findings. Researchers found that people who actively practiced their faith suffered less during the COVID-19 lockdowns within the country.

“Religious people (in that it makes a difference to their life) were around one-fifth less likely to suffer an increase in unhappiness or depression” during the pandemic, researchers said.

Likewise, this team also found that church attendance impacted the U.K.’s religious populations. During the pandemic, the U.K. practiced far stricter lockdowns than in the U.S., and churches were completely shut down.

“When places of worship were closed, religious Muslims and Catholics suffered disproportionately,” researchers found.

These findings were logical; both Muslim and Christian/Catholic faiths emphasize weekly attendance at religious services.

David Closson, the director of the Center for Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council, offered his perspective to The Washington Stand.

“The recent U.K. studies that correlate religion and happiness are not surprising. It is also not surprising that church closures correlate with higher degrees of unhappiness,” Closson said.

“As relational beings, humans are meant to live in community. Lockdowns deprived people of connections with other people,” which caused people to “suffer emotionally, physically, and even spiritually.”

In summation, the correlation makes sense, because “human nature consists of spiritual and physical components,” Closson said.

“The churches that either refused to close or opened quickly provided opportunities for the spiritual and physical encouragement that comes with being in physical proximity to other people.”

Recently, Pew Research Center conducted a similarly themed survey. Christians are more likely to experience life satisfaction, to participate in volunteer work and civic affairs, and to maintain a hopeful perspective of life than those self-describing as non-religious, or “Nones,” the survey found.

“Those who attend services at least monthly are nearly 50% more likely to say they feel hopeful and are about half as likely to feel lonely as atheists. The most active Christians are also 58% more likely to volunteer than those who call themselves ‘Nones,’ and regular churchgoers are the most likely to say they are satisfied with their own life, their family, and community life,” The Washington Stan said while analyzing the Pew Research Center’s survey results.

“Christians who go to church at least monthly are also nearly twice as likely to volunteer at non-religious charities than those who say their religion is ‘nothing in particular.’”

The survey found that Christians who attend church on a regular basis are slightly more likely to vote and contact their local representatives with concerns and feedback, yet atheists are slightly more likely to follow the news than believers.

The Washington Stand provided the following bullet point list, which sums up many teams of researchers’ findings and the new Pew Research Center’s survey.

  • People who believe in and live a Christian way of life enjoy longer, better, more prosperous, and less stressful lives.
  • Biden administration Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warned in 2023 that Americans’ “health may be undermined” by not attending religious services.
  • A 2023 study concluded that “religious practice has significant effects” on the likelihood of dying from suicides, drug poisonings, and alcoholic liver disease.
  • A 2023 study discovered “religious Americans tend to believe their life is meaningful more often than do those who are not religious.”
  • Another 2023 poll found Americans who believe in God and value marriage are more likely to be “very happy” than non-believers and single people.
  • Yet another 2023 poll found that 82% of Christians are optimistic and take pride in their church.
  • A 2023 study concluded that practicing Christians who regularly read the Bible report a higher score on the Human Flourishing Index — which measures “happiness & life satisfaction,” “mental & physical health,” “meaning & purpose,” “character & virtue,” “close societal relationships” and “financial & material stability” — than non-practicing Christians or the Nones/religiously unaffiliated.
  • Pew found in 2019 that Americans who attended religious services regularly were 44% more likely to say they were “very happy” than the religiously inactive.
  • A 2019 study found “robust effects of religiosity on depression that are stronger for the most depressed.”
  • A 2018 study from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health announced that “people who attended weekly religious services or practiced daily prayer or meditation in their youth reported greater life satisfaction and positivity in their 20s — and were less likely to subsequently have depressive symptoms, smoke, use illicit drugs, or have a sexually transmitted infection — than people raised with less regular spiritual habits.”

It seems that Christianity instills in people not just a set of principles to abide by, but a flourishing stability of mental health, a positive life outlook and resiliency to life’s hurdles. God takes care of His children.

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