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Young Adults in Faith Groups More Optimistic, Less Lonely

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A report has found that 18- to 35-year-olds who are engaged with church or other faith communities are more likely to say they are optimistic about the future, secure in who they are, able to accomplish their goals and have someone who believes in them.

The report also found the same group was less likely to say they are lonely or isolated and anxious or uncertain about the future compared to those without faith.

The latest global report conducted by Barna Group, titled The Connected Generation, surveyed more than 15,000 young adults across 25 countries and has been released in partnership with children’s charity World Vision.

The survey is one of the largest global studies of its kind.

In an effort to look into the link between personal connections and mental health, the report engaged participants in their attitude toward religion and faith and its role in their lives.

Respondents who attend a place of worship weekly were less likely to say they experience anxiety (22%), than those who do not attend church regularly (33%).

More than half (51%) of practicing Christians stated they felt “optimistic about the future” compared with 34% of those with no faith.

Over two in five (43%) of practicing Christians said they were “able to accomplish my goals,” while just 29% of those with no faith said the same.

The study also found practicing Christians were less likely to say they felt lonely and isolated from others (16%) than those with no faith (31%).

When asked if they felt “uncertain about the future,” those without faith were twice as likely to agree (51%) than those active in their faith (27%).

Almost three in 10 (28%) of all young people said they often feel sad or depressed compared with 18% of practicing Christians within the same age group.

The research suggests that faith also plays a role in how actively young people engage in volunteer work.

Those who were engaged with church were more likely to regularly contribute through volunteering to their community or world (39% compared to 23%) and more likely to give financially to charitable causes (23% to 17%).

“Through the largest single study in Barna’s history, we’ve gained unique insights into the most pressing issues and concerns facing millennials and Gen Z – cohorts who are much talked about and often misunderstood,” David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, said. “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.

“For years now, our team has gone to great lengths to listen to the stories and experiences of teenagers and young adults across the religious spectrum – from devoted and passionate adherents of Christianity and other faiths, to those for whom religion is an artifact of a bygone era,” he said.

“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 said.

Tim Pilkington, the CEO of World Vision UK, said, “We wanted to get a global understanding of 18- [to] 35-year-olds and what they perceive to be the challenges they face. Many elements of the findings have been illuminating, but 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.”

The full report is available in digital and print editions; more details are available here.

Editor’s note: A version of this news article first appeared in The Baptist Times, the online newspaper of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. It is used with permission.