Ethnic groups need specialist services to tackle alcohol misuse

Editorial: Alcohol misuse and ethnicity BMJ Volume 332 pp 682-3

Ethnic minorities may have particular problems with alcohol use, yet may not be seeking help, warns a senior psychiatrist in this week's BMJ. He believes that these hidden populations need specific services – and more research.

In the United Kingdom, several ethnic minorities have higher levels of alcohol use and resulting health problems than the general population, writes Rahul Rao of the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust.

For example, 34% of Irish men drink above the weekly recommended limit of 21 units of alcohol, compared with 29% of the general Irish population and 27% of the general British population. A similar problem exists in south Asian (Sikh) male migrants to the UK and Hispanic men in the United States.

Both alcohol misuse and ethnicity are bound to social disadvantage, says the author. Considerable stigma also surrounds alcohol misuse in minority ethnic groups, particularly for Asian communities in the UK, where people from an older generation are unwilling to recognise alcohol misuse within their communities.

As a result, people with alcohol problems may try to cope on their own rather than use alcohol services, or they may be unaware of alcohol services. In turn, health providers may avoid developing services for ethnic minorities.

Alcohol misuse cannot simply be tackled using a broad population approach without culturally appropriate services to meet the needs of minority ethnic groups, he writes. This in turn cannot be achieved without a knowledge base drawn from high quality research within specific populations.

Some progress has been made in developing culturally appropriate services over the past 10 years. But at present, such knowledge remains patchy, he concludes.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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