CARTOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS OF HEALTH BEHAVIORS: MAPPING THE SPATIAL DIMENSIONS OF RELIGIONS INFLUENCE ON TOBACCO AND ALCOHOL USE IN METROPOLITAN BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA USA

R.M. Baber, A.S. Willis

Samford University, Department of Geography, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

rmbaber@samford.edu

 

Human behaviors vary with location, in association with a complex array of social and demographic factors. Human health behaviors likewise exhibit spatial variation, influenced by numerous psychological, social and economic factors. Discovering behavioral and demographic predictors of tobacco and alcohol use is an important stage in understanding, preventing, and modifying health-compromising behavior that may lead to the development of chronic diseases in middle and later adulthood. Evidence from public health and psychological studies supports religiousness as conferring a protective effect on health, showing that engaging in religious practices is inversely related to initiating and regularly using tobacco and alcohol. What factors mediate the apparent protective effect of religion and how might demographic factors be related?

This project explores the spatial variability of specific tobacco and alcohol health behaviors in an urban region and examines the influence of religious beliefs and practices, perceived stress, psychological outlook, and various coping strategies. Data were collected from adolescent and adult members of numerous church congregations, varying in religion and denomination affiliation, in and around metropolitan Birmingham, Alabama, located in the southeastern United States. Study participants completed a battery of assessments, including Santa Clara Strength of Religious Faith Questionnaire (Plante & Boccaccini, 1997), Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen, 1983), Life Orientation Test-Revised (Scheier, Carver & Bridges, 1994), Brief COPE (Carver, 1997), and RCOPE (Pargament, Koenig, & Perez, 2000).

Results of this research will be cartographically evaluated for associations with (a) urban, suburban, and exurban locations; (b) low, middle, and upper economic strata; and (c) concentrations of different ethnicities. In addition to providing information relative to health decision-making processes, respondents to the survey instrument will provide postal code information to enable cartographic overlay with a number of social and economic characteristics tabulated by the United States Census Bureau. The authors will illustrate research results with maps revealing how the spatial dimensions and health behavior and religious data are associated with tobacco and alcohol use in the greater Birmingham area.