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“Heavy Drinking” by Current Religious Attendance and Number of Extramarital Sexual Partners

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Heavy drinking, multiple sexual partners and avoidance of worship tend to go together: the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youthshows that adults who have had no extramarital sexual partners in the previous year and currently worship at least weekly are less likely to be heavy drinkers.

Number of extramarital sexual partners: Only 9 percent of adults who have no extramarital sexual partners (are chaste) were heavy drinkers, compared with 17 percent of adults who have one extramarital sexual partner. These adults are followed by 21 percent of adults who have 2 extramarital sexual partners, 31 percent who have three extramarital sexual partners, and 41 percent of adults who have four or more extramarital sexual partners.

Current religious attendance: Only 9 percent of adults who attend weekly religious services are heavy drinkers, compared with 19 percent of adults who attend church at least monthly. Among adults who attend church less than once a month, 25 percent are heavy drinkers, followed by adults who have no religious attendance (26 percent).

Current religious attendance and number of extramarital sexual partners combined: Only 4 percent of chaste adults who worship weekly were heavy drinkers, followed by 14 percent of individuals who never attend church, but have no extramarital sexual partners. Thirty-two percent of adults who attend church but are promiscuous are heavy drinkers, followed by adults who are not chaste and who never attend church (44 percent).

Related Insight from Other Studies
Other studies show relationships between sexual activity and drinking. A 1990 random digit-dial telephone survey done of 16- to 19-year-olds in Massachusetts found that 64 percent of teenagers who reported having sexual intercourse did so after drinking and 15 percent did so after other drug use. Forty-nine percent of teenagers were more likely to have sex if they and their partner had been drinking.[1]

Additionally, another study found that drinking at an early age was associated with alcohol and sexual risks through mid-adolescence; early drinkers were more likely to report later alcohol problems, as well as multiple sexual partners and being drunk or high during sexual intercourse. Among females, early drinking was also related to sexual initiation and recent sexual intercourse.[2]

Religious practice also affects alcohol use. One study found that among college students those, who were from “Gentile” religious traditions (as opposed to “Jewish” religious traditions), those who were not strongly attached to a particular faith, and those who had parents who were alcohol abusers were more likely to abuse alcohol. This same study found that parental religious affiliation influenced the alcohol choices made by their children, with greater parental religiosity leading to less alcohol abuse by the children.[3] Another study of college students also found that students with no religious affiliation drank significantly more and more frequently, got drunk more, drank more for celebration purposes, and had greater perceived drinking norms.[4]

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. and Scott Talkington, Ph.D.

Pat Fagan is senior fellow and director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at Family Research Council.

Scott Talkington has been Research Director for the National Association of Scholars and Senior Research Fellow at George Mason University School of Public Policy since 1998.

[1]Lee Strunin and Ralph Hingson, “Alcohol, Drugs, and Adolescent Sexual Behavior,” Substance Use & Misuse 27, no. 2 (1992): 129-146.

[2] Ann Stueve and Lydia N. O’Donnell, “Early Alcohol Initiation and Subsequent Sexual and Alcohol Risk Behaviors Among Urban Youths,” American Journal of Public Health 95, no. 5 (May 2005): 887-893.

[3] H. Wesley Perkins, “Parental Religion and Alcohol Use Problems as Intergenerational Predictors of Problem Drinking among College Youth,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 26, no. 3 (September 1987): 340-357.

[4]Julie A. Patock-Peckham, Geoffrey T. Hutchinson, Jeewon Cheong, and Craig T. Nagoshi, Effect of religion and religiosity on alcohol use in a college student sample, Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence 49, no. 2 (January 1998): 81ý”88.

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