Alcoholism in Hispanic Communities
Culture is a more important indicator than race when it comes to the potential of developing a drinking problem, according to a recently published study. The distinction between race and culture is an important one.
Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority group in the USA. Hispanics also comprise a heterogeneous group. Unfortunately, this heterogeneity has usually been ignored by grouping all Hispanics into a single category.
A study led by Carlos F. Ríos-Bedoya, an assistant professor in the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University, used pre-existing national data to monitor the rate of alcohol use disorders among Hispanics and various racial subgroups. Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans and “other Hispanics” were the focus groups; the risk of alcoholism was observed to vary drastically between them.
The study indicates the annual incidence rate of alcohol abuse among Mexican- Americans is more than twice that of Caucasians, with Puerto Ricans showing almost three times the risk.
Ríos-Bedoya, who specializes in the epidemiology of drug use, wrote:
“The problem is major lifestyle and migration differences among these subgroups are not taken into account in most of the survey data that’s been collected. The result is an inaccurate picture of this population.”
Alcohol use is one of the most prevalent disorders in the United States and one of the most costly, with more than $6 billion spent on treatment and prevention each year.
With Hispanics being the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States, it is crucial to implement good substance abuse prevention measures and develop programs that will be effective within the community. These education programs need to be culturally sensitive and pertinent.
Researcher Ríos-Bedoya concluded:
“The onset of this problem (alcohol abuse), starts in young adolescence so it’s important that we start early. Although treatment is important, developing preventive measures that fit each group’s culture is what could be the most effective all around.”
The practice of categorizing Hispanics as a single ethnic group continues, though the evidence suggests that this is inappropriate. This categorization also hinders a better understanding of alcohol disorder etiology, prevention, and treatment in the largest ethnic minority group in the USA. Accurate knowledge is a powerful tool in fighting alcoholism.