New study finds significant differences in alcohol-related harms among racial/ethnic groups
Emeryville, CA (June 10, 2020) – Moderate drinkers are not immune from being injured, a new study from senior scientist Cheryl Cherpitel and colleagues found. Results showed that injury risk increased at low levels of exposure, measured by number of hours of having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, and that this risk was greatest for white drinkers compared to black and Hispanic drinkers. At the time of the study, a BAC of 0.08 or higher was the legal limit for driving in all 50 states.
Whites’ risk of injury at 1000 hours of exposure to an elevated BAC was over six percent, whereas Hispanics’ risk for the same number of hours reached approximately two percent and among blacks, one percent.
“What our findings tell us is that even at moderate levels of consumption, alcohol increases risk of harmful outcomes, in particular among whites,” Cherpitel said. “And since there are far more moderate drinkers than heavy drinkers, it’s critical that we understand the potential risks that come with lower levels of consumption.”
Researchers also looked at perceived risk of driving under the influence (DUI) and hours of exposure. They found that while perceived risk was similar across racial/ethnic groups at low exposure hours, as exposure hours increased, perceived risk among whites increased significantly, reaching over 30% at 1000 hours, a pattern not found among blacks and Hispanics.
Whites were also more likely to be current drinkers (70%) compared with blacks (54%) and Hispanics (57%), suggesting that white drinkers are responsible for the largest burden to society of these alcohol-related harms.
“We know that alcohol-related disparities exist but we’re less aware of how drinking and its outcomes differentially impact racial/ethnic groups.” Cherpitel added. “We need a more complete picture to ensure that interventions are targeted and appropriate if we’re going to effectively address alcohol-related harms.”
The study, published today in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, is the first to look at the relationship between potential risk of an alcohol-related injury and perceived DUI and hours of exposure to elevated BAC. The study used merged data from four cycles of the National Alcohol Survey (2000-2015) and included oversampling of blacks and Hispanics.
Cherpitel, C. J., Williams, E., Ye, Y. (2020). Racial/ethnic disparities in the relationship of alcohol-related injury and perceived driving under the influence from hours of exposure to high blood alcohol concentration: Data from four U.S. National Alcohol Surveys. Alcohol and Alcoholism: https://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/agaa053