How Religion Influences Alcoholism

Various forms of religion attempt to handle life’s difficulties through practices such as prayer, meditation and reflection. But does the presence of religion in a person’s life defend against problems like alcoholism, or could the presence of religion actually contribute to an alcohol use disorder?

A recent study looked at various aspects of religion to see if they could be associated with the development or maintenance of an alcohol use disorder among at-risk drinkers or people with a history of problem drinking. Borders, Curran, Mattox and Booth examined  the relationship between religious factors and alcohol use disorders in 2010.

To gather data, the researchers used a prospective cohort study among at-risk drinkers. The participants were identified through a population-based telephone questionnaire of adults in the southeastern United States. The cohort was stratified by baseline alcohol use disorder status to determine how several aspects of religiousness affected them.

The aspects of religiousness that were examined were organized religious attendance, religious self-ranking, religious influence on one’s life, coping through prayer, and talking with a religious leader. The researchers wanted to see how these dimensions were associated with the development, maintenance or remission of an alcohol use disorder over six months.

The researchers employed multiple logistic regression analyses to estimate the odds of developing versus not developing an alcohol use disorder and maintenance and remission from alcohol use disorder while adjusting for measures of social support and other covariates.

The results of the study show that more frequent organized religious attendance and coping with prayer were both shown to be associated with lower odds of developing an alcohol use disorder. However, among those with an alcohol use disorder at baseline, no association was found between religious participation and either maintenance or remission of alcohol use disorder.

The findings of the study indicate that participation in a religious organization and coping through prayer may be important protection against the development of an alcohol use disorder.

This study was based on self-report measures, and further research is needed to determine whether religious activities should be promoted as a strategy against the development of an alcohol use disorder.

The important information in this study may assist not only those who plan programs for prevention, education and intervention. It may also encourage religious organizations in the potentially critical role they can play in encouraging healthy choices relating to alcohol. As this area is further explored, it may be important for religious organizations to assist in helping at-risk drinkers avoid more extensive problems.

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