New Study Determines Differences in Alcoholism Risk Among Hispanics
Alcohol abuse is one of the most common disorders in the United States, and it’s also one of the most costly. New studies are constantly being conducted in an effort to better understand the factors that contribute to this disorder, ranging from gender and genetics to environment and ethnicity. In those studies, Hispanics are almost always grouped into a single category – a practice detrimental to fully understanding the variety of unique factors faced by each subgroup within the Spanish population.
“Hispanic” Is Too Broad a Term For Research
Addressing that very issue was the goal of a recent study conducted at Michigan State University. Convinced that “Hispanic” was too broad for research specifics, Assistant Professor Carlos F. Rios-Bedoya at Michigan State’s College of Human Medicine set out to determine the differences in alcohol consumption and addiction amongst hispanic subgroups such as Mexican-American, Puerto Rican and Cuban American. By utilizing pre-existing national data associated with the incident rate of alcohol use disorders, Rios-Bedoya’s study, which was published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, definitively determined that the annual incidence rate varies greatly amongst those subgroups.
The Hispanic population in the U.S. is growing faster than almost every other racial/ethnic group, and with that population surge has come an assertion that they are at a higher risk for alcoholism. Rios-Bedoya’s findings don’t counteract that narrative, but they do provide insights into the danger of analyzing the Hispanic population through such a wide-focus lense.
For example, the annual incidence rate of alcohol abuse among the Mexican-American population is more than double that of Caucasians. Puerto Ricans struggle even more, with a risk of alcohol abuse nearly three times greater than Caucasians. However, Cuban-Americans have an incidence rate of less than 1% and actually only half as likely to develop an alcohol use disorder than Caucasians.
Results Reveal Important Implications for Future Research and Prevention
At first glance maybe those results don’t seem like much. But when you consider the implications they hold for future research, prevention and treatment of alcoholism, their value is unmistakable. These findings are much more than simple numbers in a table; they are springboards for understanding the unique set of circumstances specific groups of people face that may contribute to developing a dependence on alcohol – something Rios-Bedoya feels is lacking in current research.
“The problem is major lifestyle and migration differences among these subgroups aren’t taken into account in most of the survey data that’s been collected,” Ríos-Bedoya said. “The result is an inaccurate picture of this population.”
“Cuban-Americans typically come into America as political refugees with no threat of immigration laws and have been able to thrive and become part of mainstream society,” he said. “They don’t face as much adversity as, say, Mexican-Americans, who often cross the border illegally and find themselves with little to no options to become part of the mainstream.”
Although Puerto Ricans are technically U.S. citizens and don’t face the same difficulties coming in and out of the country as many Mexicans, Rios-Bedoya believes the Puerto Ricans face increased risk due to cultural norms such as a lower legal drinking age. According to him, “they have a much higher risk factor in part because drinking starts at an earlier age and is a larger part of their culture growing up.”
With the Hispanic population continuing to grow so rapidly, Rios-Bedoya believes that early prevention is crucial to helping curb alcoholism within this community. The only way to effectively do that is to tailor those programs to address the specific needs of each subgroup.
While this study reaffirms that different groups of people are at a higher risk of developing an alcohol abuse disorder than others for a variety of reasons, one thing remains certain: no group is completely immune. Alcoholism is a disorder that does not discriminate, and its effects can be equally devastating regardless of a person’s racial or cultural background. It is important to spread that message to future generations through preventative programs, but it’s equally important that people beyond the point of prevention understand that it isn’t too late. Call The Watershed to get the help you deserve today. 1-800-861-1768