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Going to church makes charitable, trusting neighbours

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'Boomers' and 'millennials' who take part in religion are more likely to trust their neighbours and give to charity, shows a new study.

Religious beliefs and participation help millennials and their elders bond in local communities, researchers have found.

Experts measured the trust or ‘social capital’ religion gives people of all ages. They found people in their 20s and 30s were less likely to join groups and be religious, but being involved with church gave them more ‘religious capital’ than older people who did.

“While lower levels of religious capital are contributing to lower levels of social capital among millennials,” said Dr Stuart Fox at Brunel University London, “religious activity is also a more effective source of social capital for millennials than their elders.

"We found millennials are less likely to join groups or associations than boomers, regardless of their religious participation, so have less social capital."

The research, by Dr Fox, Dr Ekaterina Kolpinskaya from the University of Exeter, Jennifer Hampton and Esther Muddiman from the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data (WISERD) and Dr Ceryn Evans from Swansea University, is published in The Sociological Review.

Taking part in religion gave boomers (people born in the post World War II ‘baby boom’) and millennials more social trust, despite their church attendance. Those who went at least once a year were about five per cent more likely to trust their neighbours.

Millennials who said their religious belief made 'some' difference to their daily life were four per cent more likely to donate to charity than those who said it didn't make difference, while those who said it made 'much' difference are seven per cent more likely.

Boomers who attended services at least once a week were the most likely to donate to charity, and around eight per cent more likely than those of a similar age who didn't attend church. The same is true for millennials.

Millennials who said religious beliefs made a big difference to their daily lives were 13 per cent more likely to join community associations.

"Religious participation increases associational membership for both generations regardless of its intensity, said Dr Kolpinskaya. “What matters is the difference between boomers or millennials who participate in religious activity at all, and boomers or millennials who do not."