05 December 2023, The Tablet

Physical and mental health affected by Covid church closures, survey finds



Physical and mental health affected by Covid church closures, survey finds

“No more lockdown” rally on the street of Ottawa in Canada, after a third lockdown was introduced during the pandemic, in 2021.
meanderingemu/Alamy

Nearly two-thirds of people surveyed in a new study say their physical or mental health was adversely affected by church closures during Covid-19 lockdown.

In the survey of nearly 1000 people, the Catholic Union found that 62 per cent said their physical or mental health had been affected by church closures.

The survey also found that 90 per cent of people thought that places of worship should be treated as “essential” services alongside food shops and healthcare facilities in any future pandemic, meaning they would not be forced to close.

The Catholic Union said the online survey of Catholic Union members and supporters was the first major study of Catholic attitudes towards the closure of churches during the pandemic and the impact this had on people’s wellbeing.

One responder described the church closures as “one of the most distressing experiences of my life”. Another said, “I became very depressed – it felt a part of me was missing.” Another added, “I live alone and going to daily Mass is the most important event in my life”.

Catholic Union President Baroness Hollins, described the results as “shocking”. The Crossbench peer, who recently took over as the group’s president, said, “It’s clear from these results that places of worship should never be forced to close again.”

Just 25 per cent of responders thought that it was necessary to close churches and other places of worship by law at the start of the pandemic, 93 percent of responders did not think that politicians gave enough consideration to people’s faith when making decisions during the pandemic and 89 per cent said that it was unhelpful having different legal restrictions on churches across different regions and nations of the UK

The survey also found a resilience in Mass attendance, with less than 10 per cent of people saying that they go to church less frequently or not at all since the pandemic.

The Catholic Union intends to use the results to inform its evidence to the ongoing UK Covid-19 inquiry and is calling for the chair of the inquiry, Baroness Hallet, to consider the decisions around the closure and reopening of places of worship during the pandemic.

Baroness Hollins said, “These results are distressing. They confirm that the lockdown of churches was not only hugely unpopular, but had a real impact on people’s wellbeing. The increase in the number of people feeling lonely or depressed as a direct consequence of the closures is particularly shocking.

“It is vital that the Covid inquiry properly considers the decisions to close and reopen churches during the pandemic. There is a very strong sense that faith and faith communities were pushed to one side when decisions were made, and this needs to be addressed in the learning from the inquiry. It’s clear from these results that places of worship should never be forced to close again.”

 

 

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