Spirituality, Belonging, & the Pandemic Response with Dr. Joseph Bulbulia (podcast)

By Templeton Staff
July 25, 2021
Insights about our well-being gleaned from data collected during New Zealand's COVID-19 lockdown.

Drawing from data gathered during New Zealand's COVID pandemic response, Dr. Joseph Bulbulia explains how spirituality and the social interactions associated with it facilitate a sense of belonging and worth, especially during times of crisis. The conversation between Dr. Bulbulia and journalist Richard Sergay featured in this podcast is the fourth in a special, 5-part series on COVID-19.

During lockdown, there was a high level of institutional trust in New Zealand because economic assurances, such as support for the unemployed and deferred bill collection, were put in place, and all but essential workers were required to stay at home, assuaging health uncertainty as well. However, data Professor Bulbulia collected during this time show that despite these protections, at the height of the pandemic in New Zealand reported feelings of worthlessness increased nearly fourfold.

These reports suggest to Bulbulia that “part of enabling a good life for people is to enable them to have a sense of worth, to enable them to give to others, and to be productive, to have a sense of importance. That sense of importance is really fundamental to having a good life.” This sense can be derived from work activities and economic activities. We also get a sense of worth and belonging from social activities and our connections to others, often in a community of worship.

Read the transcript from the interview conducted by journalist Richard Sergay, presented by podcast producer Tavia Gilbert. Featuring: Dr. Joseph Bulbulia, Psychology professor at Victoria University of Wellington; (formerly) Psychology professor at the University of Auckland, MacLaurin Goodfellow Chair in Theological and Religious Studies.


Built upon the award-winning video series of the same name, Templeton World Charity Foundation’s “Stories of Impact” podcast features stories of new scientific research on human flourishing that translate discoveries into practical tools. Bringing a mix of curiosity, compassion, and creativity, journalist Richard Sergay and producer Tavia Gilbert shine a spotlight on the human impact at the heart of cutting-edge social and scientific research projects supported by TWCF.

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