Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Ethnicity and Health Disparities in Alcohol Research

Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Ethnicity and Health Disparities in Alcohol Research

Article excerpt

This paper reviews recent advances in alcohol research related to ethnic group disparities in alcohol consumption, disorders, consequences, and treatment use, as well as factors that may account for the disproportionate impact of alcohol on some ethnic groups. Alcohol research in the United States paid fragmented attention to the implications of race and ethnicity prior to 1984, with early alcohol surveys focusing primarily on drinking for individuals of European descent (Caetano 1984; Dawson 1998). In 1984, the first national alcohol survey with an emphasis on Blacks and Hispanics, at that time already the two largest ethnic minority groups in the U.S. population, was conducted (Caetano et al. 1998). The importance of conducting alcohol research among ethnic groups was underscored by subsequent studies identifying different patterns of alcohol consumption and disproportionate consequences from alcohol use among ethnic groups (for a review see Caetano et al. 1998; Galvan and Caetano 2003). More recent national surveys, including the 1991-1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES) and the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), both conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), oversampled Blacks and Hispanics, facilitating additional research in this area. Over the past decade, progress continues to be made in documenting the variability in alcohol consumption and related consequences for U.S. ethnic groups.

This review of selected published data describes the epidemiology of alcohol use and related behaviors both across and within U.S. ethnic groups.

The authors focused on research manuscripts published within the past 10 years. National data sources were used whenever possible. To complement published literature, national survey data available from NIAAA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were used.

National surveys show differences in alcohol consumption across ethnic groups, including patterns of drinking associated with greater risk for the adverse effects of alcohol (e.g., binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion). According to past-30-day estimates of drinking provided by the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) (SAMHSA 2008c), any alcohol use in adults (i.e., ages 18 or older) is most prevalent for Whites (59.8 percent), lowest for Asian Americans (38.0 percent), and similar for Native Americans (i.e., American Indians and Alaska Natives; 47.8 percent), Hispanics (46.3 percent), and Blacks (43.8 percent). Native Americans have the highest prevalence (12.1 percent) of heavy drinking (i.e., five or more drinks on the same occasion for 5 or more of the past 30 days; followed by Whites (8.3 percent) and Hispanics (6.1 percent). A larger percentage of Native Americans (29.6 percent) also are binge drinkers, with somewhat lower percentages for Whites (25.9 percent), Hispanics (25.6 percent), and Blacks (21.4 percent). Relative to other ethnic groups, the proportion of Asian Americans (2.7 percent) and Blacks (4.7 percent) who are heavy drinkers and Asian Americans (13.3 percent) who are binge drinkers is low.

Estimates of current and heavy drinking for adults by gender within each ethnic group are provided by the 2001-2002 NESARC (see Table 1) (NIAAA 2006). These data show that current drinking is most prevalent among White and Hispanic men and lowest for Asian-American women. Heavy drinking is defined by both weekly and daily drinking limits (i.e., consuming 5 or more standard drinks per day [or 15 or more per week] for men and 4 or more drinks per day [or 8 or more per week] for women) (NIAAA 2006). Native Americans of both genders have the highest prevalence of weekly heavy drinking, whereas Hispanic men have the highest prevalence of daily heavy drinking. …

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