Aims To estimate ethnic differences in three components of alcohol use disorder and alcohol dependence course (onset, persistence and recurrence) in a developmental framework.
Design Longitudinal data from The National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), collected using face-to-face interviews.
Setting Civilian non-institutionalized US population aged 18 years and older, with oversampling of Hispanics, blacks and those aged 18–24 years.
Participants Individuals who completed both NESARC assessments, were not life-long abstainers and were either white (n = 17 458), black (n = 4995), US-born Hispanic (n = 2810) or Hispanic-born outside the United States (n = 2389).
Measurements Alcohol dependence (AD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD; abuse or dependence) onset, persistence and recurrence were examined using the Alcohol Use Disorders and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule, DSM-IV version.
Findings Among men: relative to whites aged 18–29, AUD onset and persistence were elevated only in US-born Hispanics aged 40 years and older; odds were reduced for all non-US-born Hispanics, older whites, most blacks and US-born Hispanics aged 30–39. For AD, onset risk was elevated for all younger minority men and only reduced among non-US-born aged Hispanics 40 or older. For women: compared to young whites, non-US-born Hispanics were at decreased AUD and AD onset risk; AUD and AD onset and persistence were increased for older blacks and US-born Hispanics.
Conclusions In the United States, ethnic differences in alcohol disorder transitions (onset, persistence, and recurrence) vary across age, gender and whether a broad (alcohol use disorder) or narrow (alcohol dependence) alcohol definition is used. Evidence of increased risk for some transitions in minority groups suggests that attention should be paid to the course of alcohol use disorders, and that differences in prevalence should not be assumed to reflect differences in specific transitions.