Research Article: Adolescent religious attendance and spirituality—Are they associated with leisure-time choices?

Date Published: June 18, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Klara Malinakova, Andrea Madarasova Geckova, Jitse P. van Dijk, Michal Kalman, Peter Tavel, Sijmen A. Reijneveld, Mary C. Smith Fawzi.


Spirituality and religious attendance (RA) have been associated with personal attitudes and values, and this may affect lifestyle. The aim of this study was to explore their association with adolescent leisure-time choices in a highly secular environment.

A nationally representative sample of adolescents (n = 4,182, 14.4±1.1 years, 48.6% boys) participated in the 2014 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children cross-sectional study. We measured RA, spirituality (adjusted shortened version of the Spiritual Well-Being Scale), excessive television, computer games, and internet use, as well as participation in organized leisure-time activities.

Compared to non-attending and non-spiritual respondents, respectively, both attending respondents and spiritual respondents were less likely to watch television and play computer games excessively, with odds ratios (ORs) ranging from 0.6 (95% confidence interval 0.5–0.8) to 0.92 (0.9–0.99). Only attending and only spiritual respondents were more likely to use the internet excessively, but this was not the case for those that were both attending and spiritual. Moreover, religious and spiritual respondents were more likely to be involved in at least one organised activity. ORs were 2.9 (1.9–4.3) for RA and 1.3 (1.2–1.4) for spirituality compared to their counterparts. The same pattern was observed for sporting and non-sporting activities combined (ORs 4.6 (3.0–7.1) and 1.5 (1.4–1.7), respectively) and regularly reading books or playing a musical instrument.

Adolescent RA and spirituality are associated with a more active way of spending leisure-time. Further research should focus on understanding potential mechanisms that underlie these associations.

Partial Text

Recently, the amount of time spent on screen-based activities (SBA) has emerged as an important and independent risk factor for the physical and mental health of children and adolescents [1]. Excessive amounts of SBA have been shown to be associated with overweight [2], unfavourable levels of several cardiovascular risk factors [3] as well as a higher occurrence of headache and irritability and reports of feeling low and nervous [4]. Some of the content of SBA seems to add to these risks. For example, playing violent computer games or watching violent television programs were linked to aggressive thoughts, hostility and less pro-social behaviour [5, 6]. Higher levels of screen-based sedentary behaviours have also been linked to other health damaging behaviours, such as substance use [7].

We found that religious attendance and spirituality separately were associated with a lower prevalence of excessive television use. The same held for excessive playing of computer games, where in addition, religious attendance reinforced the protective effect of spirituality. Regarding excessive internet use, respondents who were either only attending or only spiritual were more likely to use the internet excessively. However, the combination of attending religious activities and being spiritual was protective with respect to excessive internet use.




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