Spiritual belief and its link with potentially addictive behaviors in a youth sample in Switzerland

Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2018 Nov 29;33(1). doi: 10.1515/ijamh-2018-0070.


Background: Earlier studies suggested a positive impact of spirituality on addictive disorders, but this effect has rarely been studied in a large adolescent and young adult population.

Aim: To examine the association between spiritual beliefs (general belief, the supporting role of spiritual belief, the critical role of spiritual belief) and potentially addictive behaviors (tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and other illegal drugs, excessive Internet use and gambling).

Methods: Data were collected using online self-report questionnaires among a sample of 5179 adolescents and young adults aged 15-24 years in post-mandatory education in Switzerland. Statistical analysis at bivariate and multivariate level was performed.

Results: At the bivariate level, spiritual beliefs were linked to a lower risk of tobacco smoking, alcohol misuse and cannabis use as well as an increased risk of Internet overuse and gambling. However, at the multivariate level, controlling for age, gender, language and place of birth, significant associations were found only for alcohol misuse, Internet overuse and gambling.

Conclusion: The study provides evidence that spiritual belief could protect youth from the risk of alcohol misuse but could also increase the risk of excessive Internet use and gambling. The role of spiritual beliefs in preventing or motivating these problematic behaviors is of great interest for adolescent health care providers and should be considered in the light of the separation-individuation process and transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Keywords: addictive behaviors; spiritual belief; youth.