Role of Religiosity in the Lives of the Low-Income Population: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. Findings for the General Population


Recent literature reviews in the area of religiosity/spirituality and substance use find an inverse relationship between religiosity and substance use i.e., highly religious people are less likely to use drugs and alcohol (Geppert et al., 2007). Studies of adolescents find that both organizational/public and individual/private religiosity are associated with lower levels of drug use, alcohol consumption, and cigarette smoking (Rew & Wong, 2006). Some studies suggest the importance of examining the differences in types of religiosity and their effects on different types of substance use behaviors. For example, Nonnemaker, McNeely, and Blum (2003) find that private religiosity is associated with less experimental behavior in substance use while participating in organizational religiosity has a larger association with regular use.

Multiple studies point to moderating effects of race and culture, suggesting that racial and cultural differences in religiosity may help account for differences in substance use (Wallace, Brown, Bachman, & Laveist, 2003). However, the studies examining race, culture, religiosity, and substance use do not find consistent effects. For example, Wallace et al. (2003) find that higher rates of religiosity are more prevalent among African Americans but the positive effects of religiosity are stronger for whites (Wallace et al., 2003). Another study examining American Indian culture, religiosity, and substance abuse suggests that religious affiliation is associated with fewer alcoholism symptoms compared with no religious affiliation (Yu & Stiffman, 2007).

Overwhelmingly, the role of religiosity in the use of alcohol has been studied more often than has the use of all other drugs combined. Chitwood and colleagues (2008) find that most studies that contain measures of religiosity/spirituality are primarily epidemiological in orientation and concentrate on the identification of risk factors for substance use (p. 673).

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