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Reading the Bible is increasing 'mental wellbeing' during the pandemic

by Chantalle Edmunds

More of us are reading the Bible during the pandemic, resulting in better mental wellbeing and hope in God.

That's according to a new survey for Bible Society, carried out by Christian Research. 

Forty-two per cent reported reading the Bible has led to an increased sense of hope in God during the crisis, rising to 49 per cent among 45 to 54-year-olds. Some 28 per cent said that reading the Bible had increased their confidence in the future, whilst 63 per cent said that it had enabled their confidence to remain the same, rather than dipping.

Dr Andrew Ollerton, author of The Bible Course and The Bible: A Story that makes sense of life told Premier the findings are encouraging:

"We'd like to think that the Bible makes a difference when the chips are down, but the pandemic has road tested it once more and found it, it works. You know, there is a statistical meaningful impact that the Bible is having on people's lives raising their confidence, for the future and hope."

Twenty-three per cent of those surveyed said that the Bible had increased their mental wellbeing, including 47 per cent of 24 to 34-year-olds. Thirty-three per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds reported that reading the Bible had helped them feel less lonely.  

"Loneliness is part of what this pandemic has exacerbated. I would say that's another pre-existing problem, much deeper ingrained in our culture that isn't working so well and the pandemic's exacerbated it through restrictions. But the Bible has offset that feeling of loneliness, I suppose people feeling that a certain presence of God is mediated to them through engaging with Scripture and 16 to 24 year olds, that's pretty young," he said.

The survey also found that people are reading the Bible regularly during the pandemic. The biggest rise was found among 25 to 34-year-olds, where more than half reported reading the Bible more often. 

There's a range of ways that Christians are choosing to consume their biblical content. Hard copies of the bible are still very popular, but there's also a move towards increased digital engagement.

"I think when it comes to the Bible, we're pretty persistent on wanting print ... yet there's also new types of engagement. There are so many Bible apps and reading plans that people are engaging with. But also I was interested that 30 per cent are now listening to the Bible. That's an increase of people who, perhaps again, related to well-being just want to allow the words and the stories to almost sort of wash over them in that slightly more restful, mindful kind of way," Dr Ollerton added.

He's also hopeful that even as lockdown is lifted more Christians will keep their new habit of engaging more often with the bible.

"I actually think what the pandemic has done is pushed us back towards what should have been the case anyway, which is that we are. as God's people, as Christians, we're self-feeders. We're not just those who have to turn up to a service to be fed, we are able to feed ourselves.I think the pandemic is actually almost pushed...the responsibility in the right sense to feed ourselves.

"If these figures are showing that's increased, I really hope that continues. My sense is that it will,  because we know that it takes six weeks to form a habit, [and] we've been in this new habit of living this way for a lot longer than that."

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