Young Christians enjoy better mental health than their non-churchgoing peers - study

(Photo: Unsplash/Sammie Vasquez)

Young Christians are far less likely than their non-churchgoing peers to experience anxiety and depression, a major new study has found. 

In one of the largest global studies of its kind to be conducted, the Barna study, carried out in partnership with World Vision, examined the data of 15,369 people aged 18- to 35-year-olds across 25 countries.

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%). 

While half of practising Christians (51%) said they felt "optimistic about the future", this fell to a third (34%) among those with no faith. 

Young people with no faith were more likely to say they often felt sad or depressed (28%) than practising Christians (18%), and they were also more likely to report feeling "lonely and isolated from others" (31% vs 16%). 

While less than a third of respondents with no faith (29%) said they felt "able to accomplish my goals", this rose significantly among practising Christians to 43 per cent. 

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%).

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%).

President of Barna Group, David Kinnaman, said that Millennials and Gen Z were "much talked about and often misunderstood". 

"In addition to providing many hopeful signs about the opportunities ahead of these generations, the study shows powerful connections between practicing faith and overall wellbeing," he said. 

"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 artefact of a bygone era.

"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."

World Vision UK CEO Tim Pilkington said, "We wanted to get a global understanding of 18-35-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."