Religious perceptions of alcohol consumption and drinking behaviours among religious and non-religious individuals

  • L.Z. Najjar
  • L. Leasure
  • C.E. Henderson
  • C.M. Young
  • C. Neighbors


Background: Religious involvement has been associated with lower levels of alcohol consumption in college students. However, mechanisms underlying the specific effects of religion on alcohol-related behaviours are still not entirely clear. The present study examined the association between religious perceptions of alcohol consumption (RePAC) and drinking behaviours of Christian, Buddhist, Muslim and non-religious individuals. Because the tenets of world religions take varying perspectives on the morality of alcohol use, we hypothesised that RePAC would be associated with alcohol intake and that non-religious participants would have the most positive RePAC followed by Christians, Buddhists, and then Muslims. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, college students (N=495; 79% female) aged eighteen and above completed self-report measures of alcohol intake and religious perceptions of alcohol consumption. ANOVA and negative binomial regression analyses were used to test differences in RePAC and RePAC-drinking associations, respectively. Findings: Significant associations were found between Buddhists’ (ß=-0.37, p=0.03) and Christians’ (ß=-0.27, p=0.04) RePAC and quantity of drinking relative to non-religious participants. Moreover, post hoc pairwise comparisons revealed that non-religious (M=2.59, SD=1.38) and Buddhist (M=1.47, SD=2.45) participants had the most positive RePAC, followed by Christians (M=-0.54, SD=2.31) and then Muslims (M=-3.34, SD=1.63). Discussion: Having a better understanding of RePAC-drinking associations among college students may shed light on some of the mechanisms behind the effects of religious affiliation on alcohol use. Dealing with the challenges of alcohol use and abuse early on in younger and more vulnerable populations is an important step toward controlling future problematic drinking.
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