Young Christians - still more restrictive with alcohol


A new study about young Christians' relationship with alcohol and other drugs shows that alcohol consumption is significantly lower among active Christians than among young people in general. However, only a minority totally abstains from alcohol as they move in various social environments and have friends that drink alcohol.

– These results show that religion is still an important factor for the lifestyle of many young people”, says Anders Sjöborg, a religion sociologist at CRS who recently examined the attitudes of Swedish young Christians.

That religious commitment is associated with a moderate lifestyle as far as drugs are concerned, and in particular alcohol, has emerged from several previous studies. This tendency has been particularly evident among those active in the Free Church.

Previous studies have also pointed towards a slow equalisation between active Christians and the population in general when it comes to moderate use of alcohol, as nowadays a larger number of active church-goers use alcohol from time to time.

– I wanted to investigate if the trend is the same for young people who are active in Christian organisations. I also wanted to see if there is a connection between beliefs and attitudes towards alcohol. This has been assumed but has never been studied in depth, especially not among young people”, says Anders Sjöborg.

In the study, funded by the Foundation Responsibility for the Future (SAFF) (Sw. Ansvar för Framtiden) and the Norwegian Directorate of Health, he found that as many as close to 70 percent of young people that are active in a Christian organisation and aged 16-17, never or hardly ever use alcohol. This can be compared with the latest drug use study from 2011 where just 16 percent of the girls and 17 percent of the boys in second year upper secondary school did not drink alcohol.

Every four respondent were of the opinion that Christians may drink alcohol but should not get drunk and 30 percent felt that as Christians alcohol should not be consumed at all. The majority of the participants in the survey also considered that they drank more moderately than other young people with whom they socialised and as many as 60 percent of those who drank felt that it was OK to drink alcohol if it was done occasionally.

– This suggests that a norm of moderation has emerged among these young people. The study shows that there is a gap between the norm of the church as a sober environment and the attitude that it is OK to have a glass of wine or a beer on the town after a Christian meeting. It indicates that sobriety and the Free Church are not as closely linked as before”, says Anders Sjöborg.

The degree of religiousness and religious affiliation was also linked to both alcohol consumption and attitudes to alcohol in Christian environments. The young people of the Free Church were, however, generally more restrictive compared to those that were active in the Swedish Church.

The attitude towards alcohol and alcohol consumption was also clearly influenced by both age and gender: men and older youngsters drank more than others, but also the alcohol consumption among friends and among parents influenced young people to drink to a greater extent.

– The study indicates that there is a process of individualisation in society, which also affects young Christians, where the individual makes his own choices and is not governed by a certain ideology or belief", says Anders Sjöborg.

He believes that this points to a religious process of change where certain communities that previously had strict views on alcohol have reconsidered their views. This may involve a deliberate theological reconsideration or that they have stopped talking about the alcohol issue as it is regarded as a private matter. These changes also affect Christian young people, says Anders Sjöborg.

A total of 615 persons aged 16-25 responded to questions about use and attitudes towards drugs.

* The survey was carried out during March – April and November – December 2012 using an online questionnaire which was sent to young people involved in a number of Christian youth organisations within the Church of Sweden Youth, the Church of Sweden, the Evangelical Fatherland Foundation – EFS, SALT, the Pentecostal Movement, the Evangelical Free Church, the Faith Movement and the Catholic Church.

News from 2013