New Study Examines Alcohol Use and Risks Among Asian Americans

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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  • Calvin ma

    Calvin ma

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:14 AM

    I am from an Asian family and there is little to no use of alcohol in my family. My grandfather certainly looks down on it so none of us have ever picked up the habit.

    I do know from my college days though that this is something that has hit the younger Asian community in the United States pretty hard over the last several years but never gets the kind of attention that drinking in other ethnic groups receive.

    I am saddened to learn that this kind of behavior can lead to such negative consequences for Asians and I seriously hope that this does not become the blight of our community like it has for others.

  • owens


    June 21st, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Must confess that this goes against everything that I have ever thought about Asian Americans.
    This has always been the one demographic that to me symbolizes having their stuff together and wouldn’t be the people that I would dream of falling into this trap of addictiion and destructive behavior.
    What I can take away from this though is that no one is ever immune to this prevalent problem.
    We all have that danger lurking inside of us to struggle with addiction and abuse, and it has nothing to do with genetics.
    It is all about the individual us and the choices that we are going to make in life that will determine if we are going to engage in behaviors that can ultimately be so harmful to us.

  • R Campbell

    R Campbell

    June 22nd, 2012 at 12:17 AM

    One ethnicity may be more vulnerable to all this but the fact remains that alcohol is never good, for whichever ethnicity. Why do we continue to promote and consume this poison that has become suicide literally?!!

  • Kendall T

    Kendall T

    June 22nd, 2012 at 4:29 AM

    Should not have thes preconceived notions about others. Look at how that alone can close our eyes to the problems that they could be facing.

  • carter


    June 22nd, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    I think that now is the time for us to really get focused on the problems that arise when any one person has a hard time saying no to drinking and not just wait until we have enough people from one group doing it that it looks like they are establishing a pattern for this abusive behavior.

    I want to be able to step in and provide some real education that matters to anyone who will listen about the dangers of drinking, especially when it is to the point that it negatively influences your life.

    It doesn’t matter to me one bit the background of the drinker or their race or anything like that, just that I am able to help even one person put away the alcohol and see that they can live without it in their lives.

  • Monica


    June 23rd, 2012 at 4:20 AM

    Is there something going on in this community that is driving this upswing of drinking? Or is it an undercurrent that has always been there but is just now being talked about?

  • warren fey

    warren fey

    June 24th, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    would love to know if this is something that asians admit is happening or whether it is all being concealed. sometimes it is hard to see the things that are going on right underneath our nose

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