Latino Americans and Alcohol
Latino Americans’ alcohol consumption rates have changed over time and are more similar to U.S. rates.
Latino Americans and Alcohol Trends
Latino Americans represent the second-largest ethnic group in the U.S. (behind Caucasians) and were the fastest-growing group in 2015. The U.S. population of Latino Americans is approximately 58 million, 18% of the total population in 2016. Studies of alcohol consumption among different groups have revealed clear distinctions among Hispanic and non-Hispanic, white drinkers. Additionally, Latino Americans’ alcohol consumption differs along lines of country, language, and the level of American acculturation.
Communities from a variety of Central and South American countries have immigrated to the states over the years, bringing their unique traditions and culture. Latino Americans include a large proportion of Hispanics of Mexican descent (63.3% of the Hispanic population). Puerto Ricans account for nearly 10% and the Salvadoran, Cuban, Dominican, Guatemalan, and Colombian communities each have populations over 1 million in the U.S.
Breakdown of Drinking Trends Among Latino Americans
Overall, Latino Americans are less likely to drink alcohol than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. Only 54.5% of Hispanic adults over the age of 18 had at least one drink in the past year, compared to 70.3% of non-Hispanic white adults. 67.7% have had at least one drink in their lifetime–compared to 84.2%–and 31.8% have thus far completely abstained from drinking. However, studies also show that Hispanic adults who do drink, tend to drink more heavily than other ethnicities. Nearly half of drinking adults of Puerto Rican ancestry binge drink weekly. Under a third of Cuban Americans drinkers, on the other hand, participate in binge drinking. Mexican and South/Central American men who drink, binge drink at a rate of 46.2% and 42.9% respectively.
Acculturation, or the process of assimilating into a new culture, has also had clear effects on the drinking patterns of Hispanic Americans. Studies of U.S.-born Latino Americans show that as acculturation levels increase (such as speaking English and getting an American education), drinking levels increase too. Women, in particular, tend to consume more alcohol the more they become acculturated. Adolescents of Mexican parentage who have lived in the U.S. 11 years or more have significantly higher rates of alcohol abuse than those who have lived in the country for 10 years or less. Moreover, one study found that women who chose to complete a survey in English were twice as likely to drink alcohol than those who chose the Spanish version.
Alcohol Abuse Statistics for the Hispanic Community
Of past-year Latino American drinkers, 26% engaged in heavy drinking regularly (at least once a month).
51.1% of Puerto Rican women in the U.S. who drink participate in binge drinking, the highest among any Hispanic group by far.
In a study of Latin Americans and alcohol, women who chose surveys in English over Spanish were twice as likely to drink.
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Alcohol-Related Health Consequences for Latino Americans
The consequences of alcohol abuse include social problems and health complications. Compared to other Latino Americans, Mexican Americans and Central/South Americans are the most likely to be charged for drunk driving. Between 1992 and 2002, an increasing number of women received alcohol-related citations.
Of all ethnic groups, white Hispanic men have the highest rates of alcohol-related medical conditions (like liver cirrhosis), while black Hispanic men (from the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, or Cuba) have the lowest–even when compared with non-Hispanic white adults. Generally, Latino American men progress from liver impairment to liver disease at higher rates than others.
Latino Americans and Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Approximately 9.9% of Latino Americans qualified as having an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the past year that required treatment. Of that number, less than 10% received any addiction treatment from a facility designed to provide it. Detox and rehab services have proven effective treatments for individuals who speak English and are acculturated to life in the U.S. Yet, Latino Americans are less likely than other groups to seek help for their addiction. Moreover, they are less likely to join support groups (such as Alcoholics Anonymous), despite the availability of Spanish-language groups.
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Clinical Reviewer — Last Reveiwed: April 12, 2019
Bernal, Camila, MPH. (2017). Alcohol Use and Latinos: The Risk of Acculturation. Retrieved on January 3, 2019 from https://www.centeronaddiction.org/the-buzz-blog/alcohol-use-and-latinos-risk-acculturation
Flores, Antonio. (2017). How the U.S. Hispanic population is changing. Retrieved on January 4, 2019 from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/18/how-the-u-s-hispanic-population-is-changing/
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2015). Alcohol and the Hispanic Community. Retrieved on January 3, 2019 from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/HispanicFact/HispanicFact.htm
Pearson, William S., PhD. (2005). Differences in Patterns of Alcohol Consumption Among Hispanics in the United States, by Survey Language Preference, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2005. Retrieved on January 3, 2019 from https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2009/Apr/08_0039.htm
Vimont, Celia. (2015). Hispanic Groups Differ in Drinking Rates, Alcohol-Related Problems: Expert. Retrieved on January 3, 2019 from https://drugfree.org/learn/drug-and-alcohol-news/hispanic-groups-differ-drinking-rates-alcohol-related-problems-expert/
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