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Higher Percentage of Drinkers Across American Ethnic Groups

Greater proportions of white, African American, and Hispanic drinkers have emerged since the early 1990s, a new study finds. Researchers at the University of Texas’s Department of Public Health and affiliates discovered that the number of both male and female drinkers of white, African American, and Hispanic backgrounds had risen from 1992 to 2002, but that only white drinkers had increased the volume of alcohol they consumed whereas African American and Hispanic drinkers’ alcohol consumption remained level. Lead researcher Raul Caetano and his team’s study has been published in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The researchers sought to discover national trends in drinking behavior among U.S. sociodemographic groups, including drinking patterns, volume of drinking, binge drinking, and drinking to the point of intoxication in order to identify varying predictors of alcohol use. The researchers examined data on 42,862 adults who had participated in the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES) from 1991 to 1992, and compared those results with data on 43,093 participating adults from the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) from 2001 to 2002.

When comparing the two data, researchers discovered some similar trends in drinking behavior among all ethnic groups during the ten-year period. For both genders from all three ethnic groups, there was no significant difference regarding the average number of drinks that men and women consumed per month. However, there was a considerable rise in the proportion of drinkers among both genders and all three ethnic groups between 1992 and 2002.

Yet there were also variations among the ethnic groups regarding their alcohol consumption. While African American and Hispanic adults did not increase their volume of drinking between 1992 and 2002, white adults did display a significant increase in their volume intake during this time. Even though the proportion of drinkers from all three ethnic groups rose over the years, only white adults had increased the average amount of alcohol they consumed.

Secondly, those who consume five or more drinks in a day at any time did not change across all three ethnic groups from 1992 to 2002, yet all three groups did experience a rise in those who consume five or more drinks in a day at least once a month. Lastly, only white adults showed an increase in drinking to the point of intoxication at any time, and both white and African American adults displayed a rise in drinking to the point of intoxication at least once a month. These data indicate that those who reported drinking more than others in 1992 had increased their alcohol consumption in 2002.

The researchers’ ten-year investigation is the first cross-cultural study to examine changes in alcohol consumption trends among the three ethnic groups. Because the white population greatly outnumbers other ethnic populations in the overall U.S., trends among alcohol consumption and related problems can vary between the different ethnic groups. It is important to examine which communities are being impacted by specific problems so that proper intervention strategies may be applied or improved to reach their treatment needs. Some groups are more vulnerable to certain alcohol patterns and behaviors than other groups, which may also put them at greater risk of various alcohol-related health hazards, such as violence, crime, and risky sexual behavior.

The composition of these societal changes can be quite complex, but these changes are important influences on how individuals increase or decrease their drinking activity. The researchers point out that changes to these sociodemographic drinking trends can be caused by many different factors, including declines in the average income level, an influx of immigrant groups, or aging of the population. Monitoring these ethnic groups’ drinking behaviors and providing targeted outreach to prevent specific alcohol-related problems from growing worse is a necessary goal for improving the nation’s health.

Source: Health Day, Robert Preidt, Higher Percentage of Whites, Blacks and Hispanics Drinking Than in ’90s, July 20, 2010

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