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Monday, June 29, 2009

Religion & America's Growing Generation Gap

Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey on aging in America and found some interesting results. Perhaps the most remarkable finding is that 79 percent of people believe there is "a major difference in the point of view of younger people and older people today"—a number that is even higher than it was in 1969, when 74 percent of people felt the same way. In 1979, 60 percent of people perceived this kind of difference.
The most common explanation for today's generation gap? Nearly half of those surveyed (47 percent) pointed to something having to do with values and morality. Much fewer mentioned things like political views, experience and wisdom, or the use of technology. (Click on image for larger view.)

A particularly wide generation gap has developed in terms of religiosity, as younger adults have grown more likely to have no religious affiliation. Today, 25 percent of those under 30 describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or nonreligious, while only 7 percent of those 65 and older describe themselves the same way. The survey also found that religion plays a significantly larger role in the lives of older adults, with those 65 and older more likely to pray, attend religious services, and believe in God than those under 65.

Older adults are also more likely than younger adults to say their religion has grown more important to them over the course of their lives, especially when they're dealing with a serious illness or often feel sad or depressed.

And according to the survey, adults 65 and older who attend religious services or do other activities at a place of worship have stronger social networks than those who don't, which means they're more likely to have people to turn to for companionship and support. Active churchgoers are also more likely to help other older adults in need.

Heather Wax


Diggitt said...

There's bias inherent in a poll using the word "church" to mean, or be synonymous with, "religious service."