Hispanic Drinking Habits: New Study On Alcoholism Highlights Why Racial Category Is Too Diverse To Group

Hispanic Drinking Habits: New Study On Alcoholism Highlights Why Racial Category Is Too Diverse To Group Shutterstock/VGstockstudio

Abusing alcohol is one of the most common disorders in the United States and an expensive epidemic, costing the country $6 billion in treatment and prevention a year.

A recent Michigan State University study took a peak into alcohol abuse in the Hispanic community and made some interesting findings: the risk of alcoholism varies drastically between the various racial subgroups with the "Hispanic" population. The study -- led by Carlos F. Ríos-Bedoya, an assistant professor in the College of Human Medicine -- used pre-existing national data to monitor the rate of alcohol use disorders over a period of time among Hispanics and various subgroups, including: Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans and Cuban Americans.

"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, who specializes in epidemiology of drug use. "The result is an inaccurate picture of this population."

According to the study, published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, Hispanics have a higher risk of alcoholism even though certain subgroups within the Hispanic community do not fit the stereotypes. Ríos-Bedoya points out that Cuban-Americans have an incidence rate of alcohol use disorders that is less than one percent and they are half as likely than non-Hispanic whites to develop a drinking problem.

"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," said Ríos-Bedoya. "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."

In his study, Ríos-Bedoya did find that Mexican-Americans were twice as likely to abuse alcohol than their Caucasian counterparts and Puerto Ricans displayed the most abuse of alcohol, with triple the threat.

"Even though Puerto Ricans are born U.S. citizens and have easy access back and forth between countries, 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," Ríos-Bedoya said.

With Hispanics being the fastest growing community in the United States, Ríos-Bedoya points out that it is crucial to implement preventative measures and develop programs that will be effective within the community. Taking into consideration how diverse the Hispanic community is, the program development needs to differ based on the target community.

"The onset of this problem starts in young adolescence so it's important that we start early," he said. "Although treatment is important, developing preventive measures that fit each group's culture is what could be the most effective all around."

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Susmita Baral

Susmita Baral joined Latin Times in April 2013. Her work has been published in VICE, Weight Watchers Magazine, Unique Homes Magazine, US Airways Magazine, Vista Magazine, Daily Glow and Kaplan. She holds a B.A. Psychology from Rutgers University. A self-proclaimed foodie, Susmita is a freelance list maker, part-time Shaq devotee, and a full-time eyeliner junkie who believes mac and cheese is a birthright.