In 2008, the Clergy Health Initiative conducted focus groups as well as a baseline survey of all United Methodist Clergy in North Carolina that garnered a 95% response rate among the 1,820 eligible pastors. Findings from these studies indicated that United Methodist clergy in North Carolina are more likely to suffer from obesity, chronic disease, and depression than other comparable state residents.
The study also underscored the factors in the lives of clergy that expose them to greater risks of poor health, not all of which are under the pastors’ control. These include pressure to live up to their call to ministry, relational stress, relationships that prioritize the giving of care over receiving it, a sedentary job, and pressure to live up to overly high and varied expectations set by others. The influence of congregations and the denominational polity is so strong that pastors’ efforts to be healthy are often enhanced – or thwarted – by the institutions in which they serve.
Moreover, clergy often perceive themselves to be healthier than they actually are.
The Clergy Health Initiative repeated this survey in 2010, 2012, and 2014, 2016, 20119 forming a longitudinal view of clergy health. The 7th wave of data collection will launch in August 2021.
Principal Investigator: Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell and David Eagle
CHPIR Staff: Logan Tice, Andrew Weinhold, Jia Yao