Fellow secures funding to study religion and COVID-19

Thursday 18 March 2021

St Catharine's Fellow Dr Sriya Iyer (2000) has received funding for a new project looking at the interplay between the COVID-19 pandemic and religion.

Dr Iyer commented, “With over 80% of people in the world reporting a religious affiliation, it is crucial to understand the key factors that have led to the rapid spread of the pandemic to arrest the exponential growth in infection around the world. It is equally important to understand how big shocks like pandemics affect religious networks.”

With support from the Keynes Fund, Dr Iyer will explore how religious gatherings and religious networks spread infectious diseases like COVID-19, and how public health restrictions and the inability to attend in-person religious congregations have affected mental health.

“Our study is also one of earliest looking at the effects of the pandemic on religion and mental health, after our pilot involving 300 individuals found that over 70 per cent of participants could be classified as having depression. We have also now completed the next phase of research which involves a survey of 5,000 respondents in the United States, a country characterised by enormous religious diversity and variations in socioeconomic status.

“Understanding how market participants perpetuate and propagate a contagion and how a contagion affects mental health are the first steps in designing effective and efficient public policies to combat similar epidemics in the future to promote sustained economic growth and general well-being. More broadly, combining the economics of disease and the economics of religion can tell us about the intermingling of heterogeneous communities and shed light on the factors that contribute to religious conflict.”

Dr Iyer was recently interviewed about the project by Dr Toke Aidt, a University Reader and Director of the Keynes Fund at the Faculty of Economics. Watch the video below:

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