Why are college students who struggle with questions about their faith and purpose in life more apt to
use alcohol and tobacco?
That is one of the questions that will be answered through new research undertaken by Carol Ann Faigin,
MA of Bowling Green State University. Faigin will conduct this research by building on data from the
first longitudinal study documenting changes in student attitudes about spirituality during the first
three years of college.
That research, conducted by The Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, surveyed 14,527 students
attending 136 colleges in the fall of 2004 and again in the late spring of 2007, at the end of the
students’ junior year.
The original findings from this longitudinal study showed that, while attendance at religious services
declines, college students nationwide show significant growth in a wide spectrum of spiritual and
ethical considerations during their first three years of college.
To view full results of the data, and learn more about the project, please visit
Faigin, a graduate student in BGSU’s clinical psychology program, will conduct further analysis of this
longitudinal research to investigate the nature of the relationships between spirituality and substance
abuse in college students. Research has shown that half of college students experience spiritual
struggles, a normal yet at times a tumultuous component of spiritual development.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, college-aged youth also abuse alcohol,
illicit drugs and tobacco at a higher rate than individuals in any other age range. Furthermore,
students who struggle spiritually are also more prone to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and use
Faigin’s research will be among the first to assess other factors that may contribute to why students who
are grappling with questions about their faith are more inclined to use these substances. Faigin hopes
that the findings of her research will enable college leaders to develop interventions to steer such
students away from this abuse.
Faigin notes, "I have been tracking the HERI study at UCLA since 2005 because of its commitment to
deepening our understanding of college students’ development in the areas of spirituality, meaning and
purpose. The researchers have done a tremendous job measuring these areas with new depth and reaching
out to the rich tapestry of colleges across the U.S. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in
this unique study and hope my findings can contribute to furthering support of college students during
this very important development period."
The research will be conducted between May and December of 2009. Findings from the research will be
presented at conferences and to journals focusing on higher education, student development and addition.
For more details about the project, "Spirituality in Higher Education: Students’ Search for Meaning
and Purpose," visit: www.spirituality.ucla.edu. To learn more about the BGSU research project,
please contact Carol Ann Faigin at [email protected]