Alcohol drinking patterns among Jewish and Arab men and women in Israel

Y. D. Neumark*, G. Rahav, M. Teichman, D. Hasin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Objective: Jews and Muslim Arabs comprise the bulk of modern Israeli society. Jewish tradition permits controlled alcohol drinking, whereas Muslim tradition prohibits the use of any alcohol. Increasing exposure of the traditionally conservative Arab sector to the Western culture of modern Israel might impact on and be reflected in the drinking patterns of these two populations. The influence of religiosity and other factors on drinking patterns of Jewish and Arab adults are examined using data from a 1995 national household survey. Method: Past-month drinking is assessed in this nationally representative sample of nearly 5,000 Jews and 1,000 Arabs (N = 5,954, 60% women). Un-adjusted and adjusted odds ratios (ORs) are presented to describe associations between any and heavy drinking and nationality group, religiosity, education and marital status among men and women. Modification of the nationality-drinking relationship by religiosity is also examined. Results: Any past-month drinking was reported more often by Jewish respondents than Arab respondents (OR = 2.9, 95% CI: 2.5-3.4), and this difference remained statistically significant after accounting for the effects of the other covariables. This cross-nationality difference was more pronounced among women (OR = 6.4, 95% CI: 4.6-8.8) than men (OR = 2.3, 95% CI: 1.8-2.9). The proportion of drinkers who reported heavy drinking in the past month, however, was lower among Jews (OR = 0.3, 95% CI: 0.2-0.4). Significantly higher rates of drinking were noted for secular men and women than for religious respondents in both nationality groups. Rates of drinking were more similar among secular Arabs and Jews than among religious respondents of these nationality groups. Conclusions: These results add support to the theory that adherence to religious traditions continues to serve as a barrier against drinking among both Arabs and Jews. Further work is required to determine if these patterns are stable over time and whether genetic factors are contributing to the sociocultural influences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-447
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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