International surveys by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago indicated higher percentages of older people worldwide believe in God and the researchers speculated the difference may be due to more contemplation of death.
The NORC researchers summarized data from International Social Survey Program surveys taken in 30 countries in 1991, 1998 and 2008, finding that an average of 43 percent of people aged 68 and older expressed certainty that God exists compared to 23 percent of people aged 27 and younger, Reuters reported.
Author Tom W. Smithexplained the findings and theorized how aging might heighten religious believing psychologically, while belief in a higher power has decreased modestly in most nations:
“Looking at differences among age groups, the largest increases in belief in God most often occur among those 58 years of age and older. This suggests that belief in God is especially likely to increase among the oldest groups, perhaps in response to the increasing anticipation of mortality."
But belief in God grew in Russia, Slovenia and Israel, and was highest in strongly Roman Catholic countries, including the Philippines with 94 percent expressing belief in the divine, according to Smith. The percentages were lowest in Western Europe and only 13 percent were believers the former East Germany, Smith wrote.
The survey asked people about their type and strength of belief, from strong belief in God to firm atheism. It also questioned participants about whether they believe God cares about people personally and about changes in their beliefs.
The United States ranked high in belief in God, according to the NORC report: 81 percent of people surveyed claimed they had always believed in God, and 68 percent said they believe God is personally concerned with the daily lives of people.