People in the US are drinking more than they did 20 years ago. Researchers are attributing a variety of factors, including social, economic and ethnic influences and pressures, to this increase.
Researchers from the UT Southwestern School of Health Professions compared data of 1992 (with 42,862 respondents) and 2002 (43,093 respondents) across both sexes and three major ethnic groups, and noticed an increase in consumption of alcohol.
There was also a rise in drinking five or more drinks in a day (Caucasians, African-Americans, and Hispanics) and drinking to intoxication (Caucasians and African-Americans), but this was limited to those reporting such drinking at least once a month. The reasons for these changes, the researchers pointed out, are many and may involve complex sociodemographic changes in the population.
The study, supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, was led by Dr Raul Caetano, dean of the UT Southwestern School of Health Professions and lead author of the paper. The paper has been published in the October issue of online journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
The main aim of this study was to examine trends in overall volume of drinking (average number of drinks per month), drinking five or more drinks in a single day, and frequency of intoxication among Caucasians, African-Americans, and Hispanics between 1992 and 2002. The researchers also wanted to assess the sociodemographic predictors of volume of drinking, drinking five or more drinks in a single day, and frequency of intoxication.
“Changes in the population due to aging, the influx of immigrant groups, and a decline in mean income level because of economic recessions can all impact trends in drinking and problems associated with drinking,” Dr Caetano said in a statement.
Among both men and women, the researchers did not find any statistically significant differences in the mean number of drinks per month for any of the three ethnic groups between 1992 and 2002. Among Caucasian men, the mean number of drinks per month was 21.3 in 1992 and 22.3 in 2002. Among African-American men, the figures were 19.8 and 18.9 for 1992 and 2002, respectively. For Hispanic men, the means were 18.5 and 17.8, respectively. For women, the means for 1992 and 2002 were as follows: Caucasians, 6.2 and 6.2; African-Americans, 4.9 and 5.2; Hispanics, 3.3 and 3.9.
It was, however, found that there was a statistically significant increase in the proportion of current drinkers for all three ethnic groups between 1992 and 2002, especially among men with respect to the frequencies of consuming five or more drinks in a day. The increase in percentage points was similar for each of the three ethnic groups: 5 points among Caucasians, 6 among African-Americans, and 7 among Hispanics.
The mean number of drinks consumed in 1992 was not different from that consumed in 2002 for any of the groups, independent of sex. However, because African-American and Hispanic men decreased the mean number of drinks between 1992 and 2002 while Caucasian men did not, comparisons within surveys show differences across ethnic groups in 2002 but not in 1992. In 2002, Caucasian men had a higher mean consumption than African-Americans and Hispanics.
Among women, the differences across ethnic groups in 1992 were the same in 2002, and Caucasian women also had a higher mean consumption than African-American and Hispanic women. The analysis showed that the trend in volume of drinking for Caucasians was different from the trend for African-Americans and Hispanics: volume went up for Caucasians but was either stable or went down for African-Americans and Hispanics. However, the researchers said that the higher mean number of monthly drinks for Caucasians in 2002 could not be attributed to the social or demographic factors incorporated for in the analysis. Many uncontrolled variables could influence the results.