Religion boosts wellbeing
The fresh study indicates a positive correlation between religiosity and wellbeing. Religious young people are happier than non-religious young people. The connection is especially clear among girls. The material suggests that confirmation time is also a factor that reinforces wellbeing. The strengthening of a sense of wellbeing during confirmation time is not only the result of spending time with other young people; the teens also feel that the spiritual life advanced in confirmation preparation boosts their mental wellbeing,
“The link between religiosity and wellbeing is significant, compared with claims frequently seen in the media raising the negative effects of religion in the upbringing of children. Naturally, the negative experiences must not be swept under the rug, but religion is much more frequently a factor that strengthens wellbeing both from the point of young people and the home”, Tervo-Niemelä says.
One explanation for this is linked with close family ties. The study shows that human relationships in religious families are closer on average than those in non-religious families. Those who were brought up in religious homes also describe their childhoods as having been happier than those whose homes were non-religious. Tervo-Niemelä says that the presence of religious communities supports wellbeing in a similar manner.
More research is needed
According to the researchers, the results raise many new questions. One of the greatest is to what degree the phenomena of the weakening of a sense of wellbeing and religiosity among girls are interlinked.
Although caring for the weakest and walking alongside those who are suffering are at the core of the message of Christianity, the research materials indicate in many ways that the church activities, religiosity, and confirmation time are most easily accepted by young people who are already doing well.
Reaching a young person who feels bad is much more difficult. The phenomenon is referred to as the Matthew Effect.
“Has the deterioration of wellbeing among girls led to a situation in which they no longer find confirmation time and spirituality to be appealing and meeting their life situation, or is there an opposite trend involved – that the weakening of religiosity among girls has also led to a decline in wellbeing?”
According to the researchers, deeper study is still needed on these matters.
Tervo-Niemelä, K., & Porkka, J. (2023). Does religion contribute to youth wellbeing? A longitudinal study of faith, wellbeing and the confirmation process among Finnish Lutheran youth – A gender perspective. Uskonto, katsomus ja kasvatus, 3(1), 10–27. https://journal.fi/ukk/article/view/141485