Reflecting the Image of God: Examining Spirituality’s Influence on Negative Health Behaviors

Mathew Giffin


In recent years, college campuses have seen a swell in reported negative health behaviors1,2. These behaviors include activities such as engaging in heavy drinking episodes multiple nights a week and adopting patterns of dieting that could be considered eating disorders. Literature suggests that spirituality and religiosity can be protective against risk behaviors such as these3. However, it is unknown how ready college students are to change these behaviors. The Transtheoretical Model (TTM) states that there are five stages of readiness to change, and the stages range from individuals who are resisting change to individuals who have previously experienced change and are in the process of maintaining the change4. Given that spirituality has been shown to be protective against risk behaviors, it is hypothesized that individuals who are in the later stages of change (i.e., actively expressing their spirituality) will express lower frequencies of engaging in alcohol and eating related risk behaviors. A total of 349 participants completed the online survey. The sample was approximately 73% female respondents and 27% male respondents with an average age of 20.71 years (SD = 3.78). The online survey assessed various demographics and behaviors including alcohol, drugs, sexual, and eating behaviors. Of these participants, 39% were not considering the adoption of spirituality (Precontemplation), 10.9% were contemplating change toward spiritual means in the distant future (Contemplation), 36.7% were preparing to embrace spirituality in the near future (Preparation), and 10.6% identified as actively embracing spirituality in their daily lives (Action/Maintenance). With respect to engagement in alcohol behavior, participants who were actively embracing spirituality (Action/Maintenance) engaged in significantly less consumption of alcohol compared to the other stages of change. However, there was no significant difference across the different stages of spiritual change in regards to negative eating behaviors. Therefore spirituality expression seems to provide some protection against negative drinking behaviors, but not against negative eating behaviors. Implications will be discussed.


Spirituality; Negative Health Behaviors; Transtheoretical Model

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