A new study finds differing risks for binge drinking based on race, income, and age.
The findings, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, show that African-Americans and Hispanics in the lowest income bracket (annual incomes less than $20,000) have a lower risk of binge drinking during adolescence compared to whites. However, African-Americans (but not Hispanics) have a higher risk for binge drinking compared to whites aged 50 and older.
At higher incomes, though, a comparable risk for binge drinking was found for both African-Americans and Hispanics at older ages.
About 44,000 annual alcohol-related deaths stem from binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks for females or five or more drinks for males in a two-hour period, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.
For the study, researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University (IUPU) Indianapolis analyzed data on binge drinking among 205,198 participants aged 12 and older who had been surveyed in the 2010 to 2013 National Study on Drug Use and Health. They analyzed the risk for binge drinking as a function of race/ethnicity, gender, income, and age.
After controlling for education and marital status, among those with annual incomes less than $20,000, the risk for binge drinking was lower for African-American males aged 18 to 24, as well as females aged 18 to 34, compared to their white counterparts.
However, the risk for binge drinking was higher for both African-American men and women aged 50 to 64, compared to whites. Unlike African-Americans, no crossover from low risk to high risk for binge drinking was found for Hispanics.
In the higher income brackets ($20,000 to $50,000, $50,000 to $75,000, and greater than $75,000), risk for binge drinking was generally lower for African-Americans in comparison to whites at younger ages, with similar risk of binge drinking at older ages. The risk for binge drinking for Hispanic respondents was fairly comparable across age groups.
“Although African-Americans are generally at low risk for binge drinking, we found that the risk for binge drinking increases disproportionately with age among African-Americans who are poor,” said study leader Dr. Tamika Zapolski, IUPU assistant professor of psychology and clinical psychologist.
“This may be linked to the impact of poverty, which is particularly detrimental for African-American populations.”
The findings of increased risk for binge drinking in mid-adulthood to late adulthood for low-income African-Americans can inform clinical practice as well as advance research, Zapolski said.
She plans to conduct more research to understand why older African-Americans are more likely to binge drink by looking at stresses prevalent in their communities, such as exposure to violence and housing insecurity. The aim is to develop health prevention and intervention strategies that incorporate these social factors.