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Exploring the protective effects of Judaism on risky behaviors in college students: A pilot study

Young adults are typically in a time of freedom, exploration, and risk taking during the transition to college and adulthood. Due to this fact, they are at an increased risk for partaking in behaviors such as unprotected sex and risky substance use. The current study attempts to examine the protective effects of Judaism on students’ engagement in risky behaviors. If there does seem to be protective effects of Judaism, this may be the case for other religious beliefs providing protective effects for young adults on risky health behaviors.

A small cohort of Jewish day school students (15) was used to complete the study. They were recruited during 6th-8th grade and surveyed in college at 18-24 years of age.  They answered an anonymous survey consisting of 127 questions. The questions asked about religion/spirituality, sexual activity, and substance use. The researchers found that 67% of the students identified with Conservative Judaism and the majority reported that Judaism was very important to them. All the participants reported being religious in some way. 87% of the students reported drinking at least one drink during the past 30 days.

Of the students who stated they did not binge drink, 86% of them considered themselves Conservative Judaism. Five out of the 15 students reported every trying cigarettes and 11 out of the 15 students reported trying marijuana. Five of the 15 students (all male) reported no sexual intercourse ever. Only 5 of the students reported using condoms at their last sexual encounter and 6 students reported drinking alcohol or using drugs before their last sexual encounter. Overall, when comparing the numbers to the national average, it appears that Judaism does not protect students from engaging in risky behaviors as the current study had higher averages on most questions when compared. This study shows important findings indicating young adults should be educated on health and social consequences of risky activities regardless of their religious status.

Take Away: Young adults are at an increased risk for partaking in risky behaviors such as substance use and unprotected sex. The current study attempts to examine the protective effects of Judaism on student’s engagement in risky behaviors. 15 students (18-24 years) who attended a Jewish day school were recruited. They completed anonymous surveys asking about religion/spirituality, sexual activity, and substance use. Surprisingly researchers found that when comparing these students to the national average, Judaism did not provide any protection from students engaging in risky behaviors. This study shows important findings indicating young adults need to be educated on health and social consequences of risky activities regardless of their religious status.

Neuman, M. E., Simonovich, S. D., & Amer, K. (2019). Exploring the protective effects of Judaism on risky behaviors in college students: A pilot study. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 49, 79–84. doi: 10.1016/j.pedn.2019.09.003

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