American Bible Society and Harvard Researchers Partner to Quantify the Impact of COVID-19

Report Shows Measurable Negative Impact of COVID-19 on Average American’s Well-Being; Church Attendance and Bible Reading Proven to Mitigate Effects

In a new research report, American Bible Society’s State of the Bible 2020 data is used to assess the impact of COVID-19 on people’s lives in the U.S. The report, entitled “National Well-Being Measures Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Online Samples” and authored by Tyler J. VanderWeele Ph.D. of Harvard University, Jeffery Fulks Ph.D. and John Farquhar Plake Ph.D. of American Bible Society, and Matthew T. Lee Ph.D. also of Harvard University, was published this week by the Journal of General Internal Medicine, and is available to read, view and cite online.

“It was an honor to work with Dr. VanderWeele and Dr. Lee on this important project,” said Plake, director of ministry intelligence for American Bible Society. “The Human Flourishing Measure developed by the team at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health has been a huge help to us and many other researchers when it comes to understand quantitatively and holistically how individuals are doing amid this pandemic. It helps scholars make connections between various behaviors – like, for us, studying the Bible – and human flourishing.”

Plake added: “While this study looks broadly at trends in flourishing, our ministry intelligence team took a deeper look at the impact of faith on well-being – especially during the pandemic.”

Using data from the State of the Bible 2020 research, the researchers established the first-ever nationally representative norms for human flourishing using Harvard’s Human Flourishing Measure. The research team determined that measurements of happiness and life satisfaction, mental and physical health, meaning and purpose, and financial and material stability have all declined from January to June. However, the State of the Bible 2020 analysis shows the decline was more modest for those who engaged with the Bible or continued to attend church. (Virtual gatherings were taken into account.) Their findings suggest faith has helped sustain Christians through this pandemic.

“What we’ve had the chance to do at American Bible Society is take a look at the impact Scripture engagement has had on human flourishing,” said Fulks, research manager of ministry intelligence at American Bible Society. “In fact, we found that respondents who read the Bible and those who attend church scored significantly higher on the core human flourishing scales.”

American Bible Society reports in its State of the Bible 2020 ebook that COVID-19 is impacting American’s faith and interest in the Bible. Chapter 2, “The Bible in a COVID-19 World” points out that Bible searches on Google spiked this spring, and that in the first week of April, Bible-related searches actually hit a noteworthy five-year high. It’s possible many were seeking to understand what the Bible says about suffering and sickness.

Visit stateofthebible.org to learn more about American Bible Society’s research and to download a copy of State of the Bible 2020. Details on the use of the Harvard Flourishing Index and the impact of church engagement can be found in the State of the Bible 2020 ebook, beginning on page 94.

© American Bible Society, 2020 

This article was originally published on American Bible Society's News Blog on October 22, 2020.