Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Religious affiliation and alcoholism

The Midlife Development in the United States Study (2004-06) asked respondents if they have a drinking problem (N = 3,918). Here are the percentages answering yes by religious affiliation:

No religious preference 7.8*
Agnostic/Atheist 9.1
Spiritual 15.4
Everyone else 3.6

* significantly higher than "everyone else"

People with no religion are 2-4 times more likely to be alcoholics.

By the way, I thought textbook sociology teaches us that religions that forbid alcohol produce the greatest number of drunks, but only 2.8% of Mormons report this problem.


  1. dearieme9:37 AM

    "Spiritual". Ha, ha, ha.

  2. If you just go by anecdotal evidence it seems like churches are 25% recovering alcoholics (I'm a church worker myself and constantly hear about congregants' past with alcohol). This might be because people with religions that restrict alcohol use are first to admit their alcoholism and churches draw attention to their recovery. I can understand why many would have that impression of religious people.

    By "Spiritual" I'm assuming you mean a moderately theistic person who does not hold to a traditional religion and that traditional Christians would be under "Everyone Else." Am I wrong?

  3. Anonymous11:38 AM

    Entirely empirical observation, but I notice these "Spiritual" types tend to be major guzzlers. Not a surprise to me, at least. There seems to be a theme of a relation between wild behavior and uncertain ideas...if I remember correctly, according to the GSS agnostics and deists have a high infidelity rate, much more than believers and convinced atheists.

  4. Anonymous5:38 AM

    "If you just go by anecdotal evidence it seems like churches are 25% recovering alcoholics . . . "

    I suspect that people who attend church are simply more likely to talk about their problems, past or present, with alcohol. Most people with such a background know better than to discuss this issue with co-workers or acquaintances.

    I remember a guy I knew some years ago (in AA) who commented "You just tell some son of a bitch out there that you're a recovering alcoholic, and see how far you get."

    For the most part, people with such a history simply don't discuss it.

  5. I know this hasn't been discussed in this post, but I think you guys are the only way I'm going to find out.

    What does 'IAP' stand for in the GSS results?

  6. 'IAP' is 'inappropriate.'

  7. Respondents were given a long list of religions, plus "other religion." If none of those fit you, "spiritual" was an option.

  8. Anonymous6:27 AM

    Where is an RSS or newsletter so I can follow your blog?

  9. Annis: I just added it, top right.

  10. Obviously, you don't get reliable data by asking people if they think they have a drinking problem.

  11. I'm not exactly religious but I do believe in god. I don't have problems with drinking maybe because my values are very rooted.

  12. The advent of alcoholism in a family always come long with suffering and many other things that you have to tackle with.

  13. If you or someone you love is an alcoholic, don't wait another day to get the help you need. The benefits far outweigh the initial discomfort of easing your body off of its dependence upon alcohol. Get help at an alcohol rehab.

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