The John Templeton Foundation has announced an $11 million commitment in support of research into whether people’s religious or spiritual beliefs and practices contribute to health, happiness, or long-term flourishing.
The grant is part of the foundation’s five-year, $21.5 million effort to collect new data from the original Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a study of children born between April 1991 and December of 1992 in the Avon region in the west of England that has been tracking participants’ health outcomes and details about their personal development and relationships.
Templeton Foundation director for human sciences Nicholas Gibson said, “Dr. Golding and her collaborators have created an incredible opportunity to explore how religious beliefs and practices might impact health — both across the lifespan and across generations. With three decades of data to work with, and a robust and transparent approach to planned analyses, we are really excited to see what they will discover.”
The project will collect data from the parents and their 30-year-old offspring and investigate fundamental questions exploring people’s religious or spiritual beliefs and health outcomes, including whether religious practices encourage resilience after trauma; whether illness changes religious beliefs or practices; whether parents’ religious beliefs and practices have an effect on their children’s health; which biological mechanisms underlie health consequences; and whether religious or spiritual beliefs played a role in how individuals responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project will be led by epidemiologist Jean Golding, the founder of ALSPAC, in partnership with epidemiologists Kate Northstone (ALSPAC’s executive director for data), Abigail Fraser, and Yasmin Iles-Caven, epigenetics researcher Matt Suderman, research psychologist Carol Joinson, and with the assistance of thirty-four international co-investigators.