Abstinence versus alcohol use among elderly rural Baptists: a test of reference group theory and health outcomes.
Reference groups, such as religious groups, are thought to provide individuals with normative frameworks which set and maintain standards for them. Persons who belong to a reference group, yet do not comply with the standards of that group, i.e. non-conformists, are thought to experience cognitive dissonance which in turn may lead to psychological discomfort and adverse physical health outcomes. In a community-based, racially mixed sample of elderly Baptists in the rural south of the United States (n = 1155), where Baptist churches proscribe alcohol use, we studied whether alcohol use was associated with adverse physical and mental health assessments. No relationship was found between non-conformist behavior among rural Baptists and adverse health outcomes for either Whites or African-Americans in controlled analyses. More frequent church attendance among African-American Baptists, but not for White Baptists, was strongly associated with abstinence from alcohol.
Blazer, DG; Hays, JC; Musick, MA
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