Background: There have been limited trend studies examining variations on the patterns of alcohol consumption among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics in the United States. The current paper reports national trends in drinking patterns, volume of drinking (number of drinks per month), binge drinking, and drinking to intoxication among Blacks, Whites, and Hispanics over a period of 10 years and identifies sociodemographic predictors of these behaviors across the 3 ethnic groups.
Methods: Data are from the 1991 to 1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES; n = 42,862) and the 2001 to 2002 National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC; n = 43,093). Both surveys used multistage cluster sample procedures to select respondents 18 years of age and older from the U.S. household population.
Results: Trends varied across different dimensions of drinking and ethnic groups. There were no statistically significant differences in the mean number of drinks consumed per month among men and women in any of the 3 ethnic groups between 1992 and 2002, but there was a significant rise in the proportion of current drinkers in both genders and in all 3 ethnic groups. Multivariate analysis indicated that, compared to Whites in 1992, Blacks and Hispanics did not increase their volume of drinking, but Whites did. Drinking 5 or more drinks in day at all did not increase between 1992 and 2002, but drinking 5 or more drinks at least once a month was more likely for all groups in 2002 compared to Whites in 1992. Drinking to intoxication at all was more likely among Whites in 2002 than 1992, but drinking to intoxication at least once a month was more likely among Whites and Blacks in 2002 than 1992.
Conclusion: The only common trend between 1992 and 2002 across both genders and 3 ethnic groups was a rise in the proportion of drinkers. There was also a rise in drinking 5 or more drinks in a day (Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics) and drinking to intoxication (Whites and Blacks), but this was limited to those reporting such drinking at least once a month. The reasons for these changes are many and may involve complex sociodemographic changes in the population. It is important for the field to closely monitor these cross-ethnic trends in alcohol consumption.