The Church of England is in a state of “unrelenting decline” and the number of people identifying with it a record low, according to a poll by the British Social Attitudes Survey. Church affiliation has fallen to just 2 percent among adults ages 18 to 24, with the majority of that age group saying they have no religion.

The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) is regarded as one of the most authoritative U.K. social research agencies. It found that the number of people claiming affiliation with the church has halved since 2002, from 31 percent to 14 percent, with even fewer attending church.

The strongest band of church affiliates is older than 60, but only 30 percent claim they belong to the Church of England.

The statistics are more dire for the established Church of Scotland. In Scotland, 56 percent of respondents claimed they have no religion and 18 percent belong to the church, the survey said.

“Our figures show an unrelenting decline in Church of England and Church of Scotland numbers,” said Roger Harding of the NatCen. “This is especially true for young people, where less than one in 20 now belong to their established church.

“While the figures are starkest among younger people, in every age group the biggest single group are those identifying with no religion.”

There is better news for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, for which numbers have remained more or less stable at 42 percent since 2002.

“It has been clear for some time that we have moved from an era of people automatically, and perhaps unthinkingly, classifying themselves as Church of England or Anglican to one in which identifying with a faith is an active choice,” said David Male, the Church of England’s director of evangelism and discipleship.

“We also know from research that people, particularly younger people, are less aware of denominations. Yet research, especially amongst young people, shows an increase in willingness to engage in faith. Our experience is that people — of all ages — haven’t stopped searching for meaning and answers in their life.”

John Martin

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