Religious communities in the United States and the United Kingdom were less depressed during the COVID-19 pandemic, two recent studies found.
University of Cambridge researchers conducted two studies, one in the U.S. and the other in the U.K., on the mental health and overall happiness of religious and non-religious individuals in 2020 and 2021, according to a Tuesday announcement. The research found that religion acted as a boost for both Americans and the British alike, with the risk of mental health worsening by 60% during the pandemic for U.S. citizens who were or knew someone diagnosed with COVID-19 if they professed to be non-religious.
In the U.K., participants were, on average, 29% more unhappy if they did not subscribe to a particular religion while dealing with COVID-19 lockdowns, according to the research. The researchers looked at Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism in the U.K. study and Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Judaism and Mormonism in the U.S.
The U.K. study found that no one religion was more successful than the others at providing relief during the pandemic, instead finding that the ability to communally “worship” was extremely important, according to the study.
The study in the U.S. revealed that a large portion of effectiveness was dependent on the ability to “access” religious services and gatherings and that during the strictest periods of lockdown, religious and non-religious groups saw little difference in mental health and unhappiness.
The U.K. study, however, said that it could not “provide evidence” as to why religious communities were less depressed during the lockdowns. The researchers suggested it may have to do with the ability to interact with other people as lockdown restrictions lessened or that it could be tied to “some unknown or unobserved variable.”
“The study suggests that it is not just being religious, but the intensity of religiosity that is important when coping with a crisis,” Shaun Larcom, a Cambridge professor, said in the announcement regarding the U.K. study.
The U.S. study was conducted between February and March 2021 and had 5,178 participants. The U.K. study had 3,884 people who participated between 2020 and 2021.
Many Americans are struggling with mental health issues following the pandemic, and 56% of psychologists have reported that they are unable to take on new clients due to being maxed out, according to an American Psychological Association study.
Kate Anderson on January 30, 2024