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Alcohol consumption, strength of religious beliefs, and risky sexual behavior in college students.

  • Poulson, R L
  • Eppler, M A
  • Satterwhite, T N
  • Wuensch, K L
  • Bass, L A
Published Article
Journal of American college health : J of ACH
Publication Date
Mar 01, 1998
PMID: 9558822


Relationships between alcohol consumption, strength of religious beliefs, and risky sexual behavior were examined among 210 students at East Carolina University, North Carolina, a large public university in the US's "bible belt." The study sample largely reflected the overall composition of the student body: 61% of the respondents were women and 39% were men; 9% were Black, 86% were White, and 4% were other; and they were aged 18-36 years, of mean age 21 years. 84% reported having had sexual intercourse, with 34% of the entire sample reporting a frequency of 1-3 times per week, and 27% reporting a frequency of 1-2 times per month. 27% reported the consistent use of condoms, 60% reported inconsistent use, and 13% reported never using condoms. 48% of respondents reported having sexual intercourse with multiple partners during the past year. 60% of respondents believed in attending church or attended church on a regular basis, 78% believed that God operated in their daily lives, and 80% believed that they would go to heaven when they died. 66% did not believe that premarital sex was a sin and 77% did not believe that alcohol drinking was a sin. 35% reported being intoxicated more than 5 times in the past month and 33% reported drinking so much alcohol that they passed out at least once during the past month. The women with strong religious beliefs consumed less alcohol and were less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior than were female participants with weaker religious convictions. Among the men, religious conviction was not significantly related to alcohol consumption or risky sex behavior, but the inconsistent use of condoms and having multiple sex partners were significantly positively correlated with alcohol consumption. Men had higher rates of alcohol consumption and unprotected sexual activity than women did, although the two groups did not differ in the overall frequency of sexual activity.

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