PROBLEM:  A recent post focused on the skyrocketing mental health issues in wake of the pandemic and how The Post Covid Church must step in to help.  The good news:  Simply being part of a congregation and having/practicing faith indeed does help people live a better life.

Here’s the opening paragraph from a study at Harvard Medical School, hardly an organization looking for such connections! 

“Participating in spiritual practices during childhood and adolescence may be a protective factor for a range of health and well-being outcomes in early adulthood, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Researchers found that people who attended weekly religious services or practiced daily prayer or meditation in their youth reported greater life satisfaction and positivity in their 20s—and were less likely to subsequently have depressive symptoms, smoke, use illicit drugs, or have a sexually transmitted infection—than people raised with less regular spiritual habits.”

How is this for one more reason to make faith a key part of parenting:

“These findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices,” said first author Ying Chen, who recently completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Chan School. “Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”

“Social ties increased an inmate’s odds of survival by a third.

SOLUTION:  What’s also clear is the importance of re-establishing and strengthening  the  social ties severed during the pandemic. A recent Wall Street Journal column by psychologist Susan Pinker highlighted the power of social connections, illustrated by those who survive the Nazi concentration camps: 

“There are many reasons to cultivate social bonds. Evidence shows that good health, well-being and career opportunities are tied to having a loyal network of family, friends and colleagues. Now a new study shows that the size of one’s social circle can even predict who has the best chances of survival under desperate conditions, such as in forced labor and concentration camps.

“Testimony from Holocaust survivors has long suggested that loners were among the first to die in the Nazi concentration camps. In contrast, having a family member, friend, neighbor or colleague in the camp promoted survival. Even the act of sharing something small with another person, like a bit of food or a newspaper, could help.”

Even under the most deplorable conditions, community mattered.

“The researchers found that 10% of the deportees arrived in Auschwitz knowing a fellow prisoner, whether as a prewar neighbor in Prague, a fellow community member in the Theresienstadt ghetto, as workers in the same labor camp prior to Auschwitz, or as inmates on the same transport to the concentration camp. Only 6% of Auschwitz-Birkenau inmates survived. But any one of these social ties increased an inmate’s odds of survival by a third.

The Christians faith began as a community.  More reason that our churches not forget the power, and benefit, or strengthening those communal bonds.  

This is the link to the Harvard study:

This is the link to the concentration camp study: