Results from Baylor religious survey show increased emotional struggle through pandemic

Baylor survey uncovers the extent to which mental health has been affected by COVID-19. Brittany Tankersley | Photographer

By Ana Ruiz Brictson | Staff Writer

Back in 2005, the Baylor Sociology Department and the Institute for Studies of Religions began to conduct a research survey on American religious beliefs. They continue to analyze the changes every few years.

This year, due to the pandemic, the religious survey also embarked on a search to understand the change in people’s emotional response to COVID-19.

This year, the research was led by assistant professor of sociology Dr. Laura Upenieks and current doctoral student of sociology Rebecca Bonhag, revealing a massive change in the emotions people have been experiencing through these unprecedented times.

According to Upenieks, the survey was sent out in January and closed by May.

“What surprised us was just the extent to which we saw people struggling,” Upenieks said. “Almost half of Americans said they were lonely. A third of Americans said they were angry. We found somewhere between 40% to 45% who were sad.”

Compared to results from prior years, there was a drastic increase in the number of people who shared through the survey that they were not OK. Both Upenieks and Bonhag said they were not surprised to see these results, as they realized the pandemic was a big factor in many people’s mental health.

After viewing the results, Upenieks said the Waco Tribune-Herald reached out to them and wrote a piece on their investigations. Even though this is a recurring survey, the results and its changes were very notable, which is what has brought great attention to it from the public.

Bonhag said there was a big increase in the negative emotions people are experiencing.

“Students are in a special situation; they are away from home,” Bonhag said.

Bonhag said that many events of the past year have impacted how people respond emotionally. She said that looking at the political events that have occurred could be harmful to those who are struggling.

“I hope that people can get access to mental health care — also making sure that they can afford it,” Bonhag said.

After this project, both Upenieks and Bonhag have been working to research other things within the sociology department.

Upenieks is currently conducting a research project on how people’s religious beliefs affect their thoughts regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

Bonhag is currently interested in the topic of mattering, which focuses on things that are given high importance.

The results of this survey suggest that adults have shown signs of feeling lonely and sad throughout the pandemic. As the pandemic progresses, mental health continues to be a prominent topic of conversation and research.