Friday, September 18, 2009

Do Racial and Ethnic Minority Drinkers Have More Alcohol Consequences than White Drinkers?
Research Summary
September 2009

Researchers analyzed National Alcohol Survey data from 4080 current drinkers (69% white, 19% black, and 12% Hispanic) to assess racial differences in alcohol dependence symptoms and social consequences and to determine whether self-reported social disadvantages (e.g., poverty, unfair treatment, and racial/ethnic stigma) explained any observed racial differences. Heavy drinking* was stratified into the following categories: none/low (69%), moderate (21%), and high (10%).

  • More black (11%) and Hispanic (12%) than white (6%) participants had 2 or more alcohol dependence symptoms.
  • More black (13%) and Hispanic (15%) than white (9%) participants had 1 or more alcohol-related social consequences (accidents; arguments/fights; or health, legal, and workplace problems).
  • In separate adjusted analyses, black and Hispanic participants were significantly more likely than white participants to have 2 or more alcohol dependence symptoms (if they reported "none/low" or "moderate" heavy drinking), and to have 1 or more alcohol-related social consequences (the "none/low" category only).
  • Adding social disadvantages to the models did not change the results.

*In this study, a composite variable was used to define past-year heavy drinking based on 3 indicators: frequency of 5+ drinks in a single day, frequency of subjective drunkenness, and maximum number of standard drinks in a single day.

Comments by Tom Delaney, MSW, MPA
Those involved in program planning and clinical services for black and Hispanic populations will find this study a useful reference. The authors strongly suggest the need for additional investigations to support these results, but they are an important reminder of the need to factor in biological markers and sociologic and cultural factors in treatment.

Mulia N, Ye Y, Greenfield TK, et al. Disparities in alcohol-related problems among white, black, and Hispanic Americans. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2009;33(4):654–662.

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