Assessing the Associations between Religiosity and Alcohol Use Stages in a Representative U.S. Sample

Subst Use Misuse. 2020;55(10):1618-1624. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2020.1756331. Epub 2020 May 4.


Background: Problematic alcohol drinking has been a public health concern in the United States. Studies showed that religiosity serves as a protective factor, delaying the onset of alcohol use, and reducing the frequency of drinking. Few studies, however, have examined these associations with large, nationally representative samples, and even fewer have assessed the impact of religiosity on drinking behavior transitions/changes. Objectives: This study examined a national adult sample to investigate the associations between religiosity and alcohol use stages including initiation, reinitiation, and persistence of alcohol use. Methods: Data from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions Waves 1-2 were used. Wave 1 sample included 6113 nondrinkers, 6189 prior drinkers, and 21,950 current drinkers who were at risk for initiation, reinitiation, and persistent use of alcohol, respectively. Religiosity constructs included importance of religious and frequency of practice. Three logistic regressions examined the aforementioned associations. Results: Compared to those not attending religious services, the most frequent attenders exhibited lower odds of initiating alcohol use, reinitiation after prior use, and persistent drinking (ORs = 0.23, 0.51, 0.55, respectively; ps < .01). Those identifying religious beliefs as very important exhibited lower odds of initiation and reinitiation of alcohol use (both ORs = 0.63, ps < .05). Conclusions: Religiosity plays an important role in preventing/delaying alcohol use initiation, reinitiation, and persistence. Incorporating religiosity aspects (e.g. meditation) into alcohol prevention and control programs may serve to increase protective effects. Future studies should seek to delineate what religiosity factors can be leveraged and embedded into secular prevention programs delivered to youth and adolescents.

Keywords: Religiosity; alcohol; initiation; persistence; reinitiation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Religion*
  • United States / epidemiology