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Oil Spill Disruption and Problem Drinking: Assessing the Impact of Religious Context among Gulf Coast Residents

Abstract

While a wide body of research has indicated that social resources may be enhanced through religious practice, few studies have explored how social resources are impacted by the intersection of the social and individual domains of religion. Using data from the recently conducted Survey of Trauma, Resilience, and Opportunity among Neighborhoods in the Gulf, this study employs multilevel analysis to examine the impact of religious context on alcohol misuse among individuals impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Our findings indicate that residence in areas that have high levels of religious concentration may magnify the risk of problem drinking among disaster-affected individuals for whom religion is not very salient, suggesting that religious context may influence the distribution of social resources differently between the religious and irreligious.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Supplementary analysis indicated that our substantive results were robust with Texas respondents omitted from the sample. Removal of Texas respondents lowers the number of second-level units below that needed for proper multilevel analysis (see Maas and Hox 2005), so while these results should viewed with a certain degree of caution, they do suggest our results are not materially impacted by the low response rate among Texas respondents.

  2. 2.

    Our use of religious context data from 2010, while corresponding to the beginning of DHOS, carries the assumption that community religious composition did not undergo significant changes in the period of 2010–2016. Analysis of nationally representative data from the General Social Survey indicates few significant changes in the religious identities reported by respondents residing within the Census region containing our sampling region from 2010–2016; thus we have little reason to expect that the religious composition of Gulf Coast communities experienced significant changes over this time period.

  3. 3.

    Our use of county-level data is in part a function of data limitations, but the use of county-level data also helps mitigate concerns of engaging in analysis at too granular of a level. As individuals move spatially and temporally over the course of day-to-day life, they experience exposure to a variety of environmental inputs (Kwan 2012). In this vein, emergent research challenges the notion of more granularly-based measures by highlighting the role of exposure to non-residential environments (Inagami et al. 2007), as well as demonstrating the importance of situating neighborhoods within broader contexts (Graif et al. 2016). As places that facilitate regular social interaction centered on shared norms, churches represent the essence of routine activity spaces whose influence transcends neighborhood boundaries (Browning and Soller 2014). Accordingly, we feel that county-level measurement provides a more optimal consideration of religious context.

  4. 4.

    Since a small portion of the sample selected either “not at all religious” (13.9%) or “not too religious” (13.3%) we merged these two into a single category. Ancillary analysis indicated that there were few significant differences between this merged category and each of the respective higher levels of personal religiosity. Given the complexities of some of the analyses we present, we opted to merge these two higher options into one to simplify presentation and discussion of the results.

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Funding

This research was made possible by a Grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. Data are publicly available through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information & Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) at https://data.gulfresearchinitiative.org (https://doi.org/10.7266/n76971z0).

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Drakeford, L., Parks, V., Slack, T. et al. Oil Spill Disruption and Problem Drinking: Assessing the Impact of Religious Context among Gulf Coast Residents. Popul Res Policy Rev 39, 119–146 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-019-09520-7

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Keywords

  • Religion
  • Alcohol
  • Disaster
  • Stress
  • Community
  • Health
  • Religious context