Ethnic differences have been discovered with respect to various physical and psychological health conditions. But certain ethnic groups have been underrepresented in recent studies. Asian Americans make up approximately 5% of the population in the United States, and yet there is scant research focusing on the negative consequences resulting from alcohol use in this segment of the population. Alcohol use among young Asian Americans is on the rise and so are the deleterious outcomes, including depression, anxiety, substance use, and risky sexual behavior. Alice W. Cheng of the Department of Psychology at the University of Hartford sought to add to this body of research by conducting a study on alcohol use among Asian Americans.
For her study, Cheng categorized 581 Asian Americans based on alcohol consumption into groups of nondrinkers, light drinkers, and heavy drinkers. She further classified the groups by gender to isolate which groups were most at risk for negative outcomes due to alcohol use. Cheng examined the mental health conditions of the participants at the time of the study and for the year prior. She found that the females who were the heaviest drinkers had the highest levels of mental health problems of all the participants, including heavy-drinking males. Some of the psychological issues that were influenced by their drinking included depression, generalized anxiety, drug use, and suicidal ideation. However, the male heavy drinkers had the highest rates of substance misuse when compared to all the other groups in the study.
Cheng believes these findings are significant because some experts do not believe that alcohol misuse increases the mental health problems for Asian Americans more significantly than it does for other ethnic groups. These results demonstrate that Asian Americans may be uniquely vulnerable to both mental and physical problems when they misuse alcohol. Cheng added, “Findings suggest the need to develop gender-specific drinking interventions for Asian Americans that focus on improving mental health among women and substance treatment among men.”
Cheng, A. W., Lee, C. S., Iwamoto, D. K. (2012). Heavy drinking, poor mental health, and substance use among Asian Americans in the NLAAS: A gender-based comparison. Asian American Journal of Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028306
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