The overall health of pastors in the U.S. has declined markedly since 2015, with increasing numbers who say that they face declining respect from their community and a lack of true friends, according to a recent study.
Data collected by faith-based organization Barna Group as part of its Resilient Pastor research showed a significant decrease in pastors’ spiritual, mental and emotional well-being, as well as their overall quality of life, between 2015 and 2022, the group announced last week.
The study conducted 901 online interviews with Protestant senior pastors in 2015 and compared the results with those they compiled based on 585 interviews with pastors from Sept. 6 to Sept. 16, 2022. The interviews asked pastors to rate aspects of their lives on a scale of excellent, good, average, below average, poor or don’t know.
Pastors who reported that their mental and emotional health was below average spiked from 3% in 2015 to 10% in 2022, and those who said they were in excellent mental and emotional health cratered from 39% in 2015 to 11% last year.
Pastors also noted that recent years have taken a toll on their physical health, with 22% describing their physical well-being as poor or below average in 2022, compared to only 7% in 2015. While 24% said their physical health was excellent eight years ago, only 9% said the same last year.
The study also revealed that more pastors are suffering from loneliness, with 7% saying last year they are poor when it comes to having true friends, compared to only 2% in 2015. In 2022, 20% of them ranked themselves as below average with regard to friendship while 10% said the same in 2015.
Pastors who described themselves as “emotionally or mentally exhausted” jumped from 21% in 2015 to 32% in 2022, and those who described the respect they receive from members of their community as excellent dropped from 22% to 10%.
The recent report dovetails with another poll that Barna released last March that showed the rates of burnout among pastors had risen dramatically within the past year, with a staggering 42% of ministers wondering if they should abandon their vocation altogether amid unsustainable stress and loneliness.
Multiple clergy members and those who counsel them told Fox News Digital last fall that bitter divisions over politics and the pandemic have seeped into churches and pushed pastors to address issues for which they were not equipped.
Mark Dance, a former pastor who serves as the director of pastoral wellness at faith-based financial company GuideStone, told Fox News Digital at the time that many pastors burn out because they often expect too much from themselves.
“The most unrealistic expectations come from us trying to be proficient in someone else’s profession, especially in the last two years,” he said. “People want us to chime in on politics, on a pandemic and things we’re not qualified to do. We’re not economists. If we focus on what God’s called us to do – pastoring, preaching, serving – we are less likely to face some of the challenges that are making pastors want to quit.”
“We have to wake up every day and remember what John the Baptist said: ‘I am not the Christ.’ That takes a lot of pressure off when we’re not trying to solve every problem,” he added.