for news.com.au on Feb. 5, 2008
YOUNG people who embrace trendy, self-focused spiritualism are more anxious and depressed than those who believe in God or reject religion altogether, a survey shows.
A major Queensland [Australia] study of 21-year olds suggests that the shift away from traditional religious beliefs to new-age religions is not making young adults happier.
The survey quizzed 3705 people on their beliefs in God, higher powers other than God, as well as their church-going habits and other behaviours.
Young adults with a belief in a spiritual or higher power other than God were at more risk of poorer mental health and deviant social behaviour than those who rejected these beliefs, said study author Dr Rosemary Aird, a population health researcher at the University of Queensland.
Young men who held non-traditional religious views were at twice the risk of being more anxious and depressed than those with traditional beliefs.
"This study suggests that new forms of religiosity demand further research attention to understand the extent that religious change is linked to population mental health and social behaviour among younger generations," Dr Aird said.
The research is believed to be the first in Australia to examine young adults' religious and spiritual thoughts, behaviour and feelings.
Dr Aird found only 8 per cent of young adults attended church once a week, a trend linked to lower rates of antisocial behaviour among young men but not women.
She said individualism was the common thread in the shift away from traditional religious thoughts to non-religious spirituality.
"This focus on self fulfillment and improvement over others' wellbeing could undermine a person's mental health with many people feeling more isolated, less healthy and having poorer relationships," Dr Aird said.