Discrimination is associated with heavy drinking, drinking-related problems, and greater risk of alcohol use disorders according to new research from the Alcohol Research Group, a program of the Public Health Institute, published online in Social Science & Medicine.
Although the health effects of discrimination have been widely studied, this systematic review is the first comprehensive assessment of the research specifically on alcohol use. Researchers reviewed 97 studies, seeking to summarize not only what is known about the relationship but also how that knowledge was produced.
Results found that the majority of studies focused on racial/ethnic discrimination, followed by smaller numbers on sexual orientation and gender discrimination. However, not all population groups were equally represented.
“While our assessment confirmed the widely accepted relationship between drinking and discrimination, it also highlighted important gaps. For example, most of the research we reviewed focused on African American samples,” said principal investigator and former ARG postdoctoral fellow Paul Gilbert, Ph.D. “More studies are needed to determine how discrimination affects other minority groups and their alcohol use, especially internalized and systemic types of discrimination.”
The review also found that previous studies often combined alcohol and drug use, that discrimination measures varied widely, and methods used were often not robust. In response, the authors make several recommendations to improve the quality of research on discrimination and alcohol use.
“Since alcohol is the most widely available psychoactive drug, it’s critical that future studies use consistent measures and look at specific groups and types of discrimination instead of reporting general results so we can develop the best strategies to prevent harms from alcohol,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert, P. A., Zemore, S.E. (2016). Discrimination and drinking: A systematic review of the evidence. Social Science & Medicine. Get the abstract or full text.
Research reported here was supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health under award numbers T32007240 and P50AA005595.
The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.