A worldwide pandemic apparently has led Americans to think more about the meaning and purpose of life.
That’s according to a new Lifeway Research survey, which found that 57 percent of U.S. adults during the pandemic say they ponder, at least monthly, the question, “How can I find more meaning and purpose in my life?” In 2011, it was 51 percent.
Twenty-one percent of Americans think about the meaning and purpose of life daily (compared to 18 percent in 2011). An additional 21 percent ponder the question weekly (compared to 19 percent in 2011).
But compared to 2011, Americans are less sure about what lies on the other side of death, according to the poll.
Only 43 percent of adults “strongly agree” that “there is more to life than the physical world and society.” In 2011, 67 percent agreed with that statement. Forty-two percent “somewhat agree” with the statement – an increase from 21 percent in 2011.
“In the midst of such a discouraging season, fewer Americans are convinced there is something more to this life than their daily activities,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “A large majority still lean toward there being an ultimate purpose for a person’s life, but instead of escaping the pandemic with thoughts of something greater, far fewer strongly hold such a view. A growing number of Americans have become open to the idea that this might be as good as it gets.”
McConnell added, “During Covid-19, many experiences, pleasures, and metrics of success became irrelevant overnight. It is not surprising that more people thought about their purpose and what matters in life.”
Among other findings in the survey:
- 15 percent wonder daily if they will go to heaven, an increase from 8 percent in 2011. Although 46 percent said in 2011 they “never” wonder if they’ll go to heaven, 37 percent today say they never wonder.
- 81 percent agree there is an “ultimate purpose and plan for every person’s life.” But the percentage who strongly agree with the statement has decreased, from 50 percent in 2011 to 44 percent today.
- 59 percent agree with the statement, “I have found a higher purpose and meaning for my life.”
The poll, released Tuesday, was conducted in September among 1,200 Americans.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.