A new study found that young people in the US are experiencing an increase in faith amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it also showed that there are heightened levels of loneliness and isolation as Americans practice social distancing.

According to the study, “Belonging: Reconnecting America’s Loneliest Generation,” by the Springtide Research Institute, 35% of those surveyed answered that they are having a closer relationship with God and 46% revealed that they are developing new religious practices, reports Crux Now.

We need to reach out to them and support them during this time, and even beyond this time of social distancing, as its impact will certainly be felt for years to come. —Paul Jarzembowski, Assistant Director of the Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the USCCB

However, half of the respondents claimed that they feel alone despite watching online church services, and 44% feel isolated because of the lack of connection with the faith community.

“We need to reach out to them and support them during this time, and even beyond this time of social distancing, as its impact will certainly be felt for years to come,” said Paul Jarzembowski, Assistant Director of the Youth and Young Adult Ministries for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The level of loneliness among young people can cause mental and health risks, according to American Psychological Association. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, said the feeling of isolation “heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having an alcohol use disorder.”

“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” said Holt­Lunstad.

Jarzembowski urged church leaders to find ways to reach out to the youth. He suggested phone calls or written letters to young people. “Church leaders can also host digital meet-ups for youth or young adults in their area. They can offer online sessions about spiritual and practical tools to cope with loneliness, economic uncertainty, grief, and loss.”

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Joyce has more than 15 years experience writing news, industry articles and blogs for the private and public sectors. Most of her career was spent writing technical documentation for a software company in the Philippines. She earned a B.A. in Communication Arts with a concentration in writing from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños. During her leisure time, Joyce pursues her interest in reading fiction and playing with her dogs. She can be contacted at Joyce@1cvm.com.