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The Link Between COVID-19, Anxiety, and Religious Beliefs in the United States and the United Kingdom

Rigoli, F. ORCID: 0000-0003-2233-934X (2021). The Link Between COVID-19, Anxiety, and Religious Beliefs in the United States and the United Kingdom. Journal of Religion and Health, 60, pp. 2196-2208. doi: 10.1007/s10943-021-01296-5


Research has shown that stress impacts on people’s religious beliefs. However, several aspects of this effect remain poorly understood, for example regarding the role of prior religiosity and stress-induced anxiety. This paper explores these aspects in the context of the recent coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). The latter has impacted dramatically on many people’s well-being; hence it can be considered a highly stressful event. Through online questionnaires administered to UK (<jats:italic>n</jats:italic> = 140) and USA (<jats:italic>n</jats:italic> = 140) citizens professing either Christian faith or no religion, this paper examines the impact of the coronavirus crisis upon common people’s religious beliefs. Anxiety about the coronavirus and prior religiosity showed an interaction effect upon change in religious beliefs (<jats:italic>t</jats:italic>(276) = 2.27, <jats:italic>p</jats:italic> = .024): for strong believers higher anxiety about coronavirus was associated with increased strengthening of religious beliefs (<jats:italic>r</jats:italic> = .249), while for non-believers higher anxiety about coronavirus was associated with increased scepticism towards religious beliefs (<jats:italic>r</jats:italic> = − .157). These observations are consistent with the notion that stress-induced anxiety enhances support for an individual’s existing ideology already embraced before a stressful event occurs. This study sheds light on the psychological and cultural implications of the coronavirus crisis, which represents one of the most serious health emergencies in recent times.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is published in Journal of Religion and Health. The final authenticated version is available online at: . This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: Anxiety, Stress, Religion, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Controllability
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Psychology
Date available in CRO: 01 Jun 2021 13:28
Date deposited: 1 June 2021
Date of acceptance: 22 May 2021
Date of first online publication: 29 May 2021
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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