Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Alcohol-Related Problems: Differences by Gender and Level of Heavy Drinking

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While prior studies have reported racial/ethnic disparities in alcohol-related problems at a given level of heavy drinking (HD), particularly lower levels, it is unclear whether these occur in both genders and are an artifact of racial/ethnic differences in drink alcohol content. Such information is important to understanding disparities and developing specific, targeted interventions. This study addresses these questions and examines disparities in specific types of alcohol problems across racial-gender groups.


Using 2005 and 2010 National Alcohol Survey data (N = 7,249 current drinkers), gender-stratified regression analyses were conducted to assess black-white and Hispanic-white disparities in alcohol dependence and negative drinking consequences at equivalent levels of HD. HD was measured using a gender-specific, composite drinking-patterns variable derived through factor analysis. Analyses were replicated using adjusted-alcohol consumption variables that account for group differences in drink alcohol content based on race/ethnicity, gender, age, and alcoholic beverage.


Compared with white men, black and Hispanic men had higher rates of injuries/accidents/health and social consequences, and marginally greater work/legal consequences (p < 0.10). Hispanic women had marginally higher rates of social consequences. In main effects models controlling for demographics, light drinking and HD, only black women and men had greater odds of alcohol-related problems relative to whites. Interaction models indicated that compared with whites, black women had greater odds of dependence at all levels of HD, while both black and Hispanic men had elevated risk of alcohol problems only at lower levels of HD. Drink alcohol content adjustments did not significantly alter findings for either gender.


This study highlights the gender-specific nature of racial/ethnic disparities. Interventions focused on reducing HD might not address disparities in alcohol-related problems that exist at low levels of HD. Future research should consider the potential role of environmental and genetic factors in these disparities.

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