Connect to 'higher power' for purposeful life

Youngsters who regularly attend religious services and describe themselves as spiritual are less likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol, indulge in narcissism and avoid risky sexual behaviour, a study indicates.

IANS| Last Updated: Sep 10, 2014, 17:24 PM IST

New York: Youngsters who regularly attend religious services and describe themselves as spiritual are less likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol, indulge in narcissism and avoid risky sexual behaviour, a study indicates.

"The findings suggest that young people who connect to a 'higher power' may feel a greater sense of purpose and are less likely to be bothered by feelings of not fitting in," explained Byron Johnson, co-director of the Texas-based Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.

For the study, Johnson and other researchers from the Ohio-based University of Akron and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine studied 195 juvenile offenders referred by a court, mental health professional or physician to a two-month residential treatment programme.

Researchers used four measures: alcohol or drug use; craving for alcohol or drugs; pro-social behaviour (service to others); and self-centred or narcissistic behaviour.

Forty percent of youths who entered treatments as agnostic or atheist identified themselves as spiritual or religious at discharge, which correlated with a decreased likelihood of testing positive for alcohol and drugs.

"Daily spiritual experiences such as prayer or worship were also associated with a greater likelihood of sexual abstinence, increased pro-social behaviour and reduced narcissistic behaviour," researchers wrote.

"Among possible reasons as to why adolescents may not opt to experiment with drugs are religious instruction, support from congregations or a conviction that using alcohol and drugs violates their religious beliefs," Johnson emphasised.

The paper appeared in the journal Alcohol Treatment Quarterly.