CRC Staff | January 29, 2024 |
From the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University

GLENDALE, AZ –Young adults in America are experiencing a mental health crisis of staggering proportions. And according to Dr. George Barna, Director of Research at the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, much of this crisis among 18- to 24-year-olds can be traced to their rejection of the biblical worldview and their embrace of a faulty view of the world that undermines their mental health.

As Barna told Arizona Christian University students in a recent campus chapel message, “Worldview and Mental Health,” what we’re seeing in the next generation is less a mental health crisis than it is “a worldview problem.”

Barna shared U.S. government statistics on the mental health of 18- to 24-year-olds (from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration):

  • One out of three 18- to 24-year-olds (33%) has some kind of diagnosable mental disorder
  • One out of four (25%) has some kind of anxiety disorder
  • One out of five (20%) has a major depressive episode each year
  • One out of eight (12%) has serious suicidal thoughts
  • Almost three of 10 (30%) suffer from alcohol or drug disorders
  • Overall, 50% of college-aged individuals say they often experience  feelings of anxiety or depression, fear, or suicidal thoughts

Despite these devastating statistics for the next generation, Barna had encouraging news for the students of ACU.  “There’s no need for a sense of hopelessness about this,” Barna told his chapel audience.

The key to defying the odds and living a life of meaning and purpose is first to understand why these mental health challenges are so prevalent. And then young people need to be prepared for God to use them to minister in their generation throughout their lives.

“What’s actually going on is a worldview problem,” Barna explained.

According to Barna’s latest worldview research, 18- to 24-year-olds have abandoned belief in God, reject His truth and standards of morality, and have no hope of eternal life. They are unable to find meaning and purpose in life. They fail to embrace almost all key elements of biblical worldview understanding. And without God, His truth, and His promises to help them navigate the world, when they hit rough patches in life, they have no solid place to turn.

Barna’s research shows that 90% of young people embrace a worldview known as syncretism, which effectively involves cutting and pasting together alternative worldviews into a blended, customized worldview that feels comfortable to the individual. Operating with a mindset rooted in this faulty worldview makes the world a very troubling, hopeless place.

“If they had a biblical worldview, that would instantly change their lives,” Barna contends.

He also stressed to his audience that he was not saying there was no such thing as mental illness, and that individuals with serious mental illness issues should seek treatment.

But he argued that in many cases, having a biblical worldview would be a gamechanger when it comes to mental health. His research shows that among those who are diagnosed with a mental illness, more than 90% of them lack a biblical worldview.

“As we’ve done the research, we found that having a biblical worldview makes an incredible difference in a person’s life,” Barna said. “It just plain, flat-out works.”

In fact, his research shows that people with  a biblical worldview are more likely to describe their life as happy and fulfilling. And overall, they are far more likely to hold positive views of life, including having a clear and compelling sense of purpose in life.

And that’s where ACU students and the University’s biblical worldview training can make all the difference. As Barna encouraged students:

“You are learning the solution to their need while you’re here. And I pray that you will take it with you when you leave this campus. Read the Bible, pray to God, follow the Holy Spirit. Understand that you are here to serve God in a hurting, pained world. You can bring the solution of God’s Word and the love of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to them. Please do that.”

The full chapel message from Dr. George Barna, “Worldview and Mental Health,” is available here.

Barna is a veteran researcher and his research concerning worldview and culture is available at the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. Barna is also the author of the Amazon bestseller, Raising Spiritual Champions: Nurturing Your Child’s Heart, Mind and Soul (Arizona Christian University Press, 2023).