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Keywords:

  • Alcohol;
  • religion;
  • religiosity;
  • students;
  • university

ABSTRACT

Aims  To examine alcohol consumption and the role of religiosity in alcohol use disorders in Christian, Druze and Muslim youth in Lebanon, given their distinct religious doctrines and social norms.

Methods  Using a self-completed anonymous questionnaire, data were collected on 1837 students, selected randomly from two large private universities in Beirut. Life-time abuse and dependence were measured as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version IV.

Findings  Alcohol use was more common in Christians, who started drinking younger and were twice as likely to be diagnosed with abuse and dependence. However, among ever drinkers, the odds of alcohol use disorders were comparable across religious groups. Believing in God and practising one's faith were related inversely to alcohol abuse and dependence in all religious groups, even among ever drinkers (belief in God only). The associations were sometimes stronger for Muslims, suggesting that religiosity may play a larger role in a more proscriptive religion, as postulated by‘reference group theory’.

Conclusions  Students belonging to conservative religious groups may be shielded from the opportunity to try alcohol. Once an ever drinker, however, religion is not related to the odds of an alcohol use disorder. Religiosity (i.e. belief in God and religious practice) is, nevertheless, related inversely to alcohol-related problems, even among drinkers. Findings from this culturally and religiously diverse Arab country corroborate the international literature on religion, religiosity and alcohol use, highlighting potential differences between Christians and Muslims.