5. Involvement in religion protects young people from drinking

Spiritual factors and weekly church attendance have been identified as protecting Pacific students from binge drinking.

The level of binge drinking appears to decrease as students have stronger links to religion or spirituality, with those who attend church weekly being more likely to be non-binge drinkers.

In another study of Pacific young people aged 15-25 years, the following factors were found to protect young people from drinking:

  • their commitment to the teaching of abstinence from church or religious faith;
  • their awareness of the belief that their actions as children of Pacific parents affects the reputation and standing of their Pacific family and community (e.g. church).

This study identified churches as one of the key institutions that are influential to Pacific young people, even if Pacific young people are only transporting family members to and from churches.

The other two institutions are family and peers. In the words of one of the young people in the focus-group discussions “Island parents, they’re high on church. They’ll get really disappointed if you don’t go to church every Sunday”.

The researchers also stated that young people may learn the negative risks of alcohol consumption through the church. They further stated that Pacific young people ‘negotiated’ through these institutions for their decisions on whether to drink alcohol, drink excessively or not at all.

Pacific parents also regard churches to be an important setting for adolescents. In a study of around 950 NZ parents with children aged between 12-17 years (including 119 Pacific parents), more than one-fifth of the Pacific parents considered churches to play a key role in helping adolescents to deal with alcohol-related decisions, compared with 4% of parents among the general population.