Religiosity and Decreased Risk of Substance Use Disorders

Is the Effect Mediated by Social Support or Mental Health Status?

Published in: Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, v. 45, no. 8, Aug 28, 2010, p. 827-836

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2009

by Mark J. Edlund, Katherine M. Harris, Harold G Koenig, Xiaotong Han, Greer Sullivan, Rhonda Mattox, Lingqi Tang

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OBJECTIVE: The negative association between religiosity (religious beliefs and church attendance) and the likelihood of substance use disorders is well established, but the mechanism(s) remain poorly understood. We investigated whether this association was mediated by social support or mental health status. METHOD: We utilized cross-sectional data from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (n = 36,370). We first used logistic regression to regress any alcohol use in the past year on sociodemographic and religiosity variables. Then, among individuals who drank in the past year, we regressed past year alcohol abuse/dependence on sociodemographic and religiosity variables. To investigate whether social support mediated the association between religiosity and alcohol use and alcohol abuse/dependence we repeated the above models, adding the social support variables. To the extent that these added predictors modified the magnitude of the effect of the religiosity variables, we interpreted social support as a possible mediator. We also formally tested for mediation using path analysis. We investigated the possible mediating role of mental health status analogously. Parallel sets of analyses were conducted for any drug use, and drug abuse/dependence among those using any drugs as the dependent variables. RESULTS: The addition of social support and mental health status variables to logistic regression models had little effect on the magnitude of the religiosity coefficients in any of the models. While some of the tests of mediation were significant in the path analyses, the results were not always in the expected direction, and the magnitude of the effects was small. CONCLUSIONS: The association between religiosity and decreased likelihood of a substance use disorder does not appear to be substantively mediated by either social support or mental health status.

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