Adventist Young People and a Healthy Lifestyle

Health is a blessing of which few appreciate the value. . . . Life is a holy trust, which God alone can enable us to keep, and to use to His glory. But He who formed the wonderful structure of the body will take special care to keep it in order if men do not work at cross-purposes with Him. Every talent entrusted to us He will help us to improve and use in accordance to the will of the Giver. (Ellen G. White, Our Father Cares, p. 47.)

Our last blog looked at the views of Pathfinders regarding the use of alcohol, tobacco (specifically cigarettes), and eating a healthy diet. However, how carefully do other Adventist young people follow the health guidelines taught by our Church?

According to a European study conducted in 2007 (n=5,415), 66% of young Adventists ages 14 to 25 said they never drank alcohol, and 87% reported they never smoked tobacco in the last 12 months (Spes Christiana, Valuegenesis Europe, vol. 24, 2013, 52).

A similar study conducted in the South Pacific Division in 2011 in Adventist schools (n=1,428, age range from 11 to 18+ years).  This study found that 88% of young people in 7th and 8th grades reported they never drank alcohol alone or with others, the same was said by 73% of 9th and 10th graders, and 58% of students in 11th and 12th grades. Study participants were also asked to respond to the statement, “One should choose not to drink alcohol;” 74% “strongly” or “moderately” agreed. In response to the statement, “One should choose not to use tobacco,” 83% “strongly” or “moderately” agreed. (A. Barry Gane, Valuegenesis II, Cooranbong, NSW: Avondale Academic Press, 2012, 80).

          

Another study (2013) on recent graduates from Seventh-day Adventist universities in the US also examined the attitudes of young people regarding alcohol use. Only 62% of them said that drinking alcoholic beverages was “never” or “rarely” acceptable while another 18% reported that it was “sometimes” acceptable, and another 20% said that it was “usually” or “always” acceptable (Douglas Jacobs et al., The Twenty-First Century Seventh-day Adventist Connection Study, Appendix D, 30).

While a majority of young Adventists support abstinence from alcoholic drinks or from the use of tobacco, some have still used these substances, and some even believe that using these substances is, at least sometimes, permissible.

Perceptions of a healthy diet – specifically vegetarianism – were also examined. A study conducted in the South Pacific Division in 2012 surveyed high school students (n=2,063), Avondale College students (n=192), and church members from Australia and New Zealand (n=1,160).  As part of this study, participants were asked about their views on a vegetarian diet. All three age groups showed a downward trend when compared to similar data collected in 1989 and 2001. 

  • In the age group of 11-18 year-olds, only 20% are vegetarians compared to over 40% of 11-18 year-olds who were vegetarian in 1989.
  • In the 19-29 age group, 40% of respondents are vegetarians compared to over 50% of 19-29 year-olds who were vegetarians in 1989.
  • In the 30+ years group, 37% of respondents are vegetarians compared to over 50% of 30+ year-olds who were vegetarians in 1989.

However, 42% of the 11-18 years group, 67% of the 19-29 years group, and 83% of the 30+ years group said that it is “preferable to eat a vegetarian diet.”  There is also an upward trend for vegan diet among the older groups, especially those who are 19-29 years old. (Health and Lifestyle Survey 2012 Report, Executive Summary, November 2013, 14, 20).

The European study conducted in 2007 (n=5,415) also examined young Adventists’ views on eating unclean meat; 61% said this was “never justified,” 24% said “sometimes” or “rarely justified,” and only 8% said “always/usually,” and about 7% said“I don’t know.”

While it appears that many Adventist young people acknowledge the health benefits of eating a vegetarian diet, the number of them actually practicing vegetarianism is declining.  However, there is an upward swing of those maintaining a vegan diet.

First Corinthians 10:31 tells us that, “…whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  If we properly take care of our bodies, we are actually doing it to glorify God.  However, when we don’t care for our bodies, we are unable to perform to our best and therefore cannot serve God to our full potential.