LONDON – New research out this week has revealed that three in four adults are rethinking their core values and big issues like "the meaning of life."
Out of 2,500 adults interviewed by U.K.-based Christian Research in April, 70 percent said they were searching because of the credit crunch, or worries about personal finances and job security.
The search for meaning was found to be occurring to similar degrees among the young and old, in both genders and across all social grades except the very lowest.
Most people are turning first to family and friends to discover their meaning, according to the survey. Fifty-six percent of those interviewed said they considered spending more time with family and friends. Half said they actually did it, and of those, 47 percent said it was worth it.
"This is a sign that when things are crumbling down, people are looking for love and to be loved," said Benita Hewitt, director of Christian Research, who presented the findings at the Christian Resources Exhibition on Tuesday.
"Jesus said to love one another and that's what people are doing," she added.
The second most popular way of finding meaning was in contacting past friends. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they considered contacting past friends, and 31 percent said they actually made the contact.
"This is also a sign of the need to love and be loved," Hewitt noted. She pointed to similar conclusions drawn by Christian dating agency Christian Connection, which has reported a 40 percent increase in subscribers during the credit crunch.
Some have tried to find meaning by doing voluntary and community work. Although 24 percent considered it, only 13 percent actually followed through.
"The church can maybe think about how it can help people to actually do some voluntary work," said Hewitt.
More than voluntary work, 14 percent of those searching said they tried prayer, with 12 percent saying they found it worthwhile.
Low on the list of ways to find meaning was going to church.
While 23 percent of unchurched respondents said they were searching, only 3 percent said they considered going to church. Of them, only 1 percent actually went – equivalent to around 60 respondents – and none said they would go again.
"This presents a real challenge for the church," Hewitt commented. "Research also shows that the Dow Jones plummeting has not affected churchgoing. We're not on the spiritual map at all."
Christian Research found that out of the non-religious respondents, 45 percent said they had turned to family and friends, 25 percent to past friends, 8 percent to voluntary work, 8 percent to an art or music hobby, and another 8 percent to reflective time alone.
"The research shows that if you are from a church background, then going to church helps, but if you are among the unchurched then they don't find it helpful. More than that, they aren't even going in the first place," said Hewitt.
"Our message to all Christians is to remember that three out of four people you know are looking for more meaning and now is the time to talk to them about that," she highlighted. "They are looking for meaning in relationships, in love, in community, and that's what we can give them."