Is the world becoming more spiritual? Has the pandemic led to more people to search for deeper meaning?
That’s what our research set out to answer in the following infographic.
Let’s first define spirituality.
Spirituality is the belief that there is something greater than yourself and usually involves some kind of search for a deeper meaning in life.
Unlike religion, spirituality is not affiliated with any one faith or belief system. Many people who are religious consider themselves spiritual too, but plenty of people who identify as spiritual do not see themselves as religious.
By digging deep into publically available statistics and survey data, we reveal exclusively whether the world is indeed becoming more spiritual, the impact of the pandemic on spirituality levels, and what types of spirituality practices are popular around the world.
Key findings of our research include:
- Canada, Italy and India are the three most spiritual countries in the world
- 75% of Americans are spiritual and Americans are becoming more spiritual over time
- 28% of Americans claim the pandemic has boosted their religous faith, compared to 14% of people worldwide
- 58% of people worldwide are interested in living a more spiritual life
- Scientists around the world are only slightly less spiritual than the general population.
If you’re curious about how spiritual the world really is in 2022, then you’ll love the infographic below.
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How many people in the world are spiritual?
Spirituality can be tricky to describe, and can significantly overlap with religion.
Whilst religion has a more organized set of beliefs and practices, spirituality is more of a personal and individual practice.
What’s certain is that the overwhelming majority of the world does have some form of faith in a higher power.
In certain parts of the world, the picture of faith is very different. For example, spirituality seems to be more popular in the US than in Western Europe.
Studies from the Pew Research Center showed that 27% of people in the US say they are spiritual but not religious.
48% say they are both religious and spiritual. 6% say they are religious but not spiritual. 18% say they are neither religious nor spiritual.
Those figures are significantly lower in Western Europe where 11% of Europeans describe themselves as spiritual but not religious.
24% of people in Western Europe describe themselves as both religious and spiritual. 15% of Europeans call themselves religious but not spiritual. 53% of Europeans say they are neither religious nor spiritual.
Interestingly, even within countries where many people do not identify as either religious or spiritual — such as Norway, Finland Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands — the vast majority of people do still believe they have a soul.
On average, 65% of people agreed with the statement “I have a soul as well as a physical body”.
It seems to suggest that even if people do not consider themselves as spiritual, they still have some beliefs that could be classed as spiritual.
For example, even though only 21% of Norwegians say they are spiritual, 70% still said they believe they have a soul.
Many Europeans do embrace some form of spiritual concepts, like an afterlife and connections that cannot be seen or measured scientifically. In fact, on average 43% do embrace spirituality compared to 29% who reject it.
Is spirituality on the rise?
There is evidence to suggest that spirituality is on the rise. And the data seems to point to the increase of spirituality coming at the expense of belief in organized religion.
Affiliation with any one particular faith has dropped, whilst the number of people describing themselves as spiritual has risen.
From 2012 to 2017 research shows there was an 8% increase in people in the US who say they are spiritual.
Over the same period of time, the number of U.S. adults who identify as religious dropped by 11%.
The biggest increase in spirituality has come from people ages 30-49 (10% increase), closely followed by people ages 18-29 (9% increase) and 50-64 (8% increase). There was a much slower increase after the age of 65 (3% increase).
Who is becoming more spiritual?
In the US, the increase in people who identify as spiritual comes from both men and women of all backgrounds, ages, ethnicity.
On the whole, slightly more women (53%) than men identify as spiritual (47%).
People who say they are spiritual but not religious tend to be slightly more educated than the US public on the whole.
The impact of coronavirus on spirituality
The arrival of Covid-19, subsequent lockdowns, and normal life turned upside down had a huge effect on the entire world.
When it comes to coronavirus and spirituality, it seems that more people lean upon belief in a higher power in times of trouble.
Research shows that nearly three in ten US adults say the pandemic boosted their religious faith.
Meanwhile, around the rest of the globe, although that figure is lower, people agree that Covid-19 had an impact on their spirituality — with 14% of people worldwide saying the outbreak boosted their faith.
Spirituality around the world
Spirituality is practiced in a wide variety of ways around the world, depending upon the country, culture, and prominent faith within the region.
The vast majority of the world still identify with a particular religious group (84% of the population).
Christianity is the most commonly practiced religion (31.2% of the total world population), followed by Islam (24.1%), Hinduism (15.1%), and Buddism (6.9%).
But whether it is through meditation, mindfulness practices, prayer, breathwork, energy work, chanting, asceticism, yoga, spiritual study and reading, mantras, or even through volunteering, many practice faith and spirituality in a way that is individual to them.
The majority of the world (58% on average) say they are interested in having a more spiritual dimension in their life.
China ( 84%), Indonesia (84%), South Africa (84%), Peru (80%), and India (79%) come top for wanting to embrace more spirituality in their lives.
Figuring out which are the world’s most spiritual countries isn’t an easy task, as spirituality features more than being religious.
It concluded that the world’s most spiritual country was Canada, followed by Italy and then India.
The world’s top ten most “spiritual countries”:
The increasing popularity of spiritual and New Age beliefs
Because of the fluid nature of spirituality, many people may not identify as being spiritual but still identify with some form of spiritual practice or belief.
For example, there is some evidence to suggest that interest in spirituality and spiritual activities, such as meditation and yoga, is increasing.
A report from the Pew Research Center found that Americans are more likely to report feeling a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being or a sense of wonder about the Universe than they were a few years earlier.
Meanwhile, a 2017 study found that participation in yoga nearly doubled from 2002 to 2012.
Overall, women (69%) are more likely to believe in some form of new-age belief than men are (55%).
In many Western European countries, a substantial minority of adults say they hold spiritual beliefs or engage in new age practices.
- 34% say they believe in fate (the course of their lives is largely or wholly preordained)
- 26% believe in yoga as a spiritual practice and not just exercise
- 23% believe in astrology (that the position of the stars and planets can affect people’s lives)
- 23% believe in spiritual energy in physical things
- 20% believe in reincarnation (that people will be reborn in this world again and again)
- 19% of people say they meditate
- 13% consult tarot cards or horoscopes.
This belief in new age practices seems to be even stronger in the US, where roughly six-in-ten American adults accept at least one of these New Age beliefs: reincarnation, astrology, psychics, the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects like mountains or trees.
- Four-in-ten Americans believe in psychics
- Four-in-ten Americans believe that spiritual energy can be found in physical objects
- 33% of Americans believe in reincarnation
- 29% of Americans believe in astrology.
The belief in both science and spirituality
Can science be compatible with spirituality? For many people, the answer is yes.
A survey of 3,000 science, medical, technical, and engineering professionals in Europe (UK, France, and Germany) discovered that 45% identified as being religious or spiritual whilst only 25% considered themselves to be atheists.
Roughly one in three (34%) people who answered the survey in the UK, and a quarter of participants in France and Germany said that religion or spirituality was important to the way they live their lives.
However, there is evidence that scientists, in general, may still be less religious or spiritual than the general population.
In the US, a 2009 survey of scientists found they were half as likely to believe in God or some form of a higher power. Only one in three scientists said they were believers, compared to 83% of the general population.
The scientifically proven benefits of spirituality
Science has spoken and overwhelmingly decided that spirituality and religion are good for your health.
Researchers at the Mayo clinic say:
“Most studies have shown that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes, including greater longevity, coping skills, and health-related quality of life (even during terminal illness) and less anxiety, depression, and suicide. Several studies have shown that addressing the spiritual needs of the patient may enhance recovery from illness.”
Studies suggest that spiritual people live longer, have more satisfying, meaningful lives, and have lower rates of depressive states.
Analysis of 42 independent samples reported that religious involvement is significantly and positively linked to living longer.
Another study on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction showed improvement in overall life satisfaction and physical and mental health from spiritual beliefs and practices.
Spirituality has also been scientifically linked to lower instances of depression, lower blood pressure, an increase in job satisfaction, and higher levels of psychological resilience, positive emotions, and improved immune response.
Ultimately research suggests that an individual’s spiritual practices can influence physiological as well as psychological wellbeing.
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