Alcohol, Young People and Religion

Young people who profess no religion are significantly more likely to have had an alcoholic drink than those with a faith. Indeed, religion is one of the most important factors affecting the likelihood of youth’s consumption of alcohol. This is according to bivariate and multivariate analytical research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on 17 June.

Details of the study are to be found in Pamela Bremner, Jamie Burnett, Fay Nunney, Mohammed Ravat (all of Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute) and Willm Mistral (University of Bath), Young People, Alcohol and Influences: A Study of Young People and their Relationship with Alcohol and in the associated technical document. These may be downloaded from:

Fieldwork was undertaken by means of self-completion questionnaire administered by Ipsos MORI, in invigilated classroom conditions, to a representative sample of 5,785 teenagers aged 13-14 (year 9) and 15-16 (year 11) attending all types of secondary schools in England (apart from special schools). The fieldwork dates were 9 February to 22 May 2009.

In year 9 30% of pupils had never had an alcoholic drink and 70% had, but the latter proportion stood at 81% for those with no religion and dropped to 62% among those with a faith. Drinkers in year 11 numbered 89%, 94% of those without religion and 84% with one.

Among believers, Christians were far more disposed to have drunk alcohol than Muslims, 71% and 13% respectively in year 9, 91% and 26% in year 11. Thus, 87% of year 9 and 74% of year 11 Muslims had not drunk. In fact, across both age groups, the odds of Muslims having had alcoholic drink were 25 times lower than for non-Muslims.

Of those who had never consumed alcohol 25% in year 9 and 34% in year 11 gave religious reasons for not drinking, and these were disproportionately Muslims. In general, however, young people mostly rationalized their abstinence in secular terms, such as lack of interest and potential damage to health, more than on religious grounds.

One-half of both years 9 and 11 identified with a religion, four-fifths of them with Christianity. The number professing no religion edged up from 44% to 48% between years 9 and 11, while those saying their religious beliefs were important to them fell from 26% to 20%. Many believers were apparently fairly nominal. Listeners to religious music were only 7%, and they were three times less likely to have drunk alcohol than non-listeners.

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