Family, career and money top spirituality and faith in providing meaning and purpose for U.S. adults, according to a Pew Research Center report released Nov. 20.

When presented with an open-ended question (one without a list of choices) about things that provide meaning in their lives, 69 percent of respondents said family, 34 percent career and 23 percent money.

Spirituality and faith came in fourth with 20 percent of adults indicating this was a source of meaning, followed by friends (19 percent), activities and hobbies (19 percent), health (16 percent), home and surroundings (13 percent) and learning (11 percent).

Family was also the leading source of meaning in a second set of survey questions, which included a list 15 possible responses, with 69 percent of respondents saying spending time with family “provides a great deal” of meaning and fulfillment and 40 percent saying it is the “most important source” for them.

While only 36 percent of respondents said their religious faith provided them a great deal of meaning (ranking 6 out of 15), 20 percent indicated that faith was the “most important source” of meaning and fulfillment in their life – the second highest total and the only other response in the list to receive a double-digit affirmation beside spending time with family.

“Spirituality and religious faith are particularly meaningful for evangelical Protestants, 43 percent of whom mention religion-related topics in the open-ended question. Among members of the historically black Protestant tradition, 32 percent mention faith and spirituality, as do 18 percent of mainline Protestants and 16 percent of Catholics,” the report said.

“Evangelical Protestants’ focus on religious faith also emerges in the closed-ended survey: 65 percent say it provides ‘a great deal’ of meaning in their lives, compared with 36 percent for the full sample.”

The full report is available here.

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