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Survey finds pandemic-era church closures hurt mental health

Church closed covid-19

Iryna Budanova | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 12/13/23

The findings of the study, undertaken by the Catholic Union of Great Britain, will be presented to the ongoing UK COVID-19 inquiry for consideration.
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A new survey from the Catholic Union of Great Britain is examining how the closures of churches during the COVID-19 pandemic affected the mental health of Catholics. The findings of the survey, completed by about 1,000 UK Catholics, are to be presented to the UK COVID-19 Inquiry, an ongoing investigation into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the policies initiated during that turbulent time. 

According to the Catholic Herald, nearly 2 in 3 surveyed Catholics (62%) claimed that they experienced a decline in mental and spiritual well-being due to the inability to attend Mass during the pandemic years. Participants of the study cited feelings of depression and a sense of loss, as though a piece of themselves was missing.

One respondent described the time as “one of the most distressing experiences of my life.”

Responses revealed that the vast majority of them (90%) consider church services as essential as grocery stores and healthcare facilities during a time of pandemic. Furthermore 93% of them indicated that they did not believe politicians gave enough consideration to people’s faith in their decision making, and 89% said it was unhelpful to have different restrictions on churches in each region of the UK. Only 25% said they felt it was necessary to close churches during the pandemic. 

Catholic Union president Baroness Hollins of Wimbledon, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, called the findings “shocking” and “distressing.” She noted that the closure of churches during the pandemic was not only unpopular, but it was detrimental to people’s well being. 

“The increase in the number of people feeling lonely or depressed as a direct consequence of the closures is particularly shocking… There is a very strong sense that faith and faith communities were pushed to one side when decisions were made, and this needs to be addressed in the learning from the Inquiry.” Wimbledon added, “It’s clear from these results that places of worship should never be forced to close again.”

As for the lasting impact of church closures after the pandemic, Catholics have largely returned to their normal rates of Mass attendance. Only 10% reported going to church less frequently or not at all since the pandemic. 

Read the full report, at the Catholic Herald.

CatholicismCOVID-19United Kingdom
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