Young more likely to pray than over-55s - survey

By Harry Farley
BBC News

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Young people in the UK are twice as likely as older people to pray regularly, a new survey has found.

Some 51% of 18 to 34-year-olds polled by Savanta ComRes said they pray at least once a month, compared with 24% of those aged 55 and over.

It also found 49% of the younger age group attend a place of worship every month, compared with 16% of over-55s.

The associate director of Savanta said the numbers could reflect the move to online worship during the pandemic.

Chris Hopkins added that there were "a few theories" as to why young people made up such a large proportion of the religious landscape.

"Firstly, as the demography of the UK changes, minority faiths do tend to have a larger proportion of practising young people, and therefore as the population of these groups increases within the UK, so will the prayer habits of the population at large," he said.

He explained it was important to "factor in the impact the pandemic has had on the ability to engage with one's faith" with virtual prayers and services being held online.

"It is possible that the pandemic opened up more avenues to prayer to young people, and this is reflected in the findings," he said.

The findings seem to go against a number of other studies, including the British Social Attitudes survey, which suggest older people pray and attend places of worship more regularly than younger people.

'My faith is my anchor in life'

Image caption,
Mariyah Zaman said her faith provides her with solace

Mariyah Zaman, 23, is a Muslim from Cardiff. She says that she prays every day and found her faith gave her solace in the pandemic.

"As a Muslim, my faith to me is stability. It's the only thing that I know is stable and clear.

"Every time you watch the TV news, there's always something negative going on and I feel like my prayers are the one thing that I know have clarity.

"I know it's guaranteed and it's not going to change. I know it's going to be the place that provides solace. It's my grounding and my anchor in life."

Image caption,
Yasmina Abdelrazik (right) pictured with her friend Zara Ahmed, said she bases her aspirations around her faith

Yasmina Abdelrazik, 23, agrees. She said her faith "gives me purpose in life".

"It's something that reminds me every day why I'm here. And it's kind of what I base all my aspirations around.

"So, to excel in this world, and then hopefully, excel in the next as well."

The study polled 2,075 British adults in August and seems to contradict the stereotypical view that religious groups in the UK are overwhelmingly elderly.

It was commissioned by The Eternal Wall of Answered Prayer, a project to build a 169ft (52m)-tall arch made of a million bricks, each representing an answered prayer.

Its founder, Richard Gamble, said the study challenged the perception that the UK was a secular society.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that there is actually a growing spirituality in the nation," he said.

"If younger generations are exploring faith and spirituality online and in non-traditional ways it shouldn't be a matter of debate, but should be encouraged and embraced."

A separate study by Manchester Metropolitan University coming out this week suggests religious communities have boomed in the pandemic with the move online.

Dr Alana Vincent, co-investigator of the British Ritual Innovation under Covid-19 (BRIC-19) project, said the pandemic "opened doors to those for whom worship has been inaccessible or uncomfortable".

She added: "Nevertheless, we've found that the actual experience of digital worship has been disappointing and frustrating for many people.

"This includes young adults, who in our survey have had a decidedly harder time than their older peers. Religious life can't escape the digital age, and it shouldn't - the need is real and significant."