Role of Religiosity in the Lives of the Low-Income Population: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. Data, Methods, and Measures


Despite the growing research exploring the role of religiosity in substance use, the conceptualization and measurement of religiosity is not standardized in research studies (Chitwood et al., 2008). Although the same measures are not used systematically, a recent systematic review of literature on religiosity and substance use finds that there are eight common dimensions of religiosity/spirituality that have been used in studies examining substance abuse (Chitwood et al., 2008). These dimensions include:

  • Organizational religiosity refers to participation in formal religious activities requiring some level of social interaction with other persons. Attendance at religious services is the item that was used most frequently to operationalize organizational religiosity.
  • Religious affiliation refers to identification with a particular religious group.
  • Subjective religiosity refers to an internal evaluation or self-ranking of individual religiousness. Questions that ask respondents to report how religious they consider themselves or how important religion is in their lives are frequently used to operationalize subjective religiosity.
  • Religious belief refers to the adherence to and/or respect for specific religious teachings, principles, and rituals. Questions that ask respondents about their belief in God or their belief in life after death are examples of how this construct can be operationalized.
  • Religious coping refers to religious behaviors and activities in which people engage to cope with stress or difficult life situations.
  • Spirituality refers to an overarching concept that includes religion but may be operationalized in measures that are conceptually distinct from religiosity. Questions that ask respondents about their personal quest for understanding answers to ultimate questions about life, about meaning, and about relationship to the sacred or transcendent are examples of how this construct can be operationalized.
  • Multidimensional religiosity refers to combined indicators of two or more dimensions into a single multidimensional measure of religiosity.

The majority of studies include one dimension of religiosity in their analyses, and the most prevalent of these dimensions are organizational religiosity, religious affiliation, subjective religiosity, and religious belief.

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