"The Relationship of Religion and Alcohol Consumption
The 21 primary countries in this analysis were classified as either predominantly Protestant or Catholic (there were four countries in which neither religion was dominant) (see Table 1). Catholic countries consume significantly more alcohol than Protestant (or neither religion dominant) countries (F=6.76, 20 df, p=<.01). The correlation between percentage Catholic and total consumption is also highly significant (r=.64, p=<.005). Catholic nations consume twice the percentage of their total beverage alcohol in the form of wine as do Protestant countries (F=5.78, 20 df, p=<.05). This difference narrowed marginally, and the percentage wine consumed declined in Catholic countries and increased in Protestant countries from 1980 to 1990 (F=5.04, 19 df, p=<.05; missing data for Iceland). Differences between Temperance and non-Temperance cultures are more significant than those based solely on religion, in terms both of total alcohol consumption (p=<.001) and percentage consumed as wine (p=<.001) or spirits (p=<.005), but not beer.
Long term effect of alcohol
Engs (1980) compared 3719 Canadian and 1428 American college students. The Americans drank more and had more alcohol related problems. **Protestants from churches opposed to alcohol had less consumption than Roman Catholics and Protestants not opposed to alcohol (9.98 vs 13.2 drinks per week). ** Canadian Roman Catholics (2.61 problems) and Protestants from churches not opposed to alcohol (2.56) suffer more problems than did Protestants not allowed to drink (2.25) and Jewish students (1.72). These figures paralleled the levels of drinking. American Jews (3.90 problems), by contrast, drank as much as Catholics and Protestants from drinking churches and had the most problems while Protestants from non-drinking churches (2.80) had the least drinking and fewest problems. The analysis included only drinking students. Abstaining was likely higher from churches opposed to alcohol and would have made the figures even more favorable for students from those churches if the abstaining students were included in the analysis.
African-American students who were drinkers were noted to be less likely to be moderate or heavy drinkers when compared to European-Americans (Rachal, 1975). This is consistent with the concept that drinkers from most families, cultures or subcultures with a larger percentage of abstainers are less likely to be heavy drinkers. Nationality examples of this would be Singapore (Isralowitz) and Sri Lanka (Samarasinghe, 1987). However, in the case of American Indians and the Irish (O’Connor) there exists both a large percentage of abstainers and a large percentage of heavy and abusive drinkers. In such cultures, the high level of abstaining is almost certainly a reaction to the heavy damage of alcohol to the culture rather than the cause of the damage. Perhaps there is an hereditary predisposition for these nationalities.
Rachel (1975) also found in a survey of 13,122 high school students that highly religious students were much more likely to be abstainers and much less likely to be heavy drinking. The South had the highest level of abstaining and lowest of drinking in all categories except “infrequent.”
Kane (1972) studied 19,929 high school students in Kentucky. Catholic boys were more likely to be heavy drinkers (41% vs 32%) and less likely to be non-drinkers (16% vs 57%) when compared to Protestants.
Biggs (1974) gave a questionnaire to 465 University of Minnesota undergrads. Atheists, agnostics, and Jews were the most numerous and heaviest users of marihuana. Conservative Protestants used alcohol less and fewer had been intoxicated. Catholics, liberal Protestants, and atheists were the most likely to have been intoxicated at least 12 times in the year. Negative attitudes towards parents correlated with marijuana, but not alcohol use.
Schlegel (1979) looked at 1750 high school students in Ontario. Those from “proscriptive” Protestant backgrounds, i.e. Baptists, Mennonites, and members of the Salvation Army, were least likely to drink (60% vs. 95%) and least likely to be heavy drinkers (5% vs. 20%). Schlegel says his research rejects the hypothesis that proscriptive Protestants who drink have a high rate of heavy drinking. This was true even of proscriptive Protestants who attended church only five times a year. Still less active or inactive proscriptive Protestant students were similar to nonattenders of other religions in having considerably higher heavy drinking rates (25%-30%).