The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on participation in religious services just as it did on workplaces, but a new survey indicates strong emotional resilience from those who consider their faith vital to their existence.
That was part of the findings of a survey conducted late last year of 1,600 adults, mostly from Washington, Maryland and Virginia. Nearly 40 percent of the respondents identified as Catholic.
Survey results were discussed during a May 21 webinar hosted by Catholic University’s sociology department and the Institute of Human Ecology.
Respondents who reported a decline in religiosity since the pandemic had more than twice the odds of feeling isolated and lonely than respondents who did not report such a decline.
“Religiosity seems to be a buffer against negative stresses,” said Brandon Vaidyanathan, chair of the sociology department and an associate professor of sociology.
Fewer than 20 percent of the sample said their mental health had worsened, he added.
The one area where people report a deterioration in their lives was in feelings of isolation, but only “a very small number,” Vaidyanathan said, reported their “sense of purpose in life having been weakened.”
Reflecting the pessimism before vaccines became widely available earlier this year as well as more than six months of livestreamed services by the time the survey was conducted, only slightly more than half the respondents said they planned to return only to in-person worship services; 44% said they planned to combine in-person worship with online services. Almost no one said they wanted to participate only in online worship.
“The staggering amount of change” on congregations “has been anxiety-producing … to a monumental degree,” said Scott L. Thumma, a professor of sociology of religion at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut. He thought the survey result “speaks highly to the adaptive behavior” of religious communities.