Study Finds Link Between Discrimination, Drinking Alcohol

Pouring whiskey into a glassExposure to discrimination may be linked to alcohol abuse, according to a study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

Statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism show 16.3 million adults (6.8%) had an alcohol abuse problem in 2014. Nearly a quarter (24.7%) of adults reported engaging in binge drinking in the past month. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol claimed the lives of 88,000 people each year from 2006-2010, for a total of 2.5 million years of potential life lost.

Methods for Researching Discrimination and Alcohol Habits          

The study looked at previous research on alcohol and discrimination, providing a systematic review of research conducted between 1980 and 2015. Of 938 studies, 97 met all of the researchers’ inclusion criteria. The studies looked at an array of discrimination, including gender and sexual orientation and race/ethnic discrimination. The studies focused more frequently on racial discrimination, which accounted for 71 of the 96 included studies, though racial discrimination targeted at Native Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders received less attention.

The studies pointed to a clear connection between exposure to discrimination and increased alcohol consumption. Previous research suggests people often drink to cope with stress, and discrimination can cause severe stress.

Future Research Opportunities on Discrimination and Drinking

Although the studies establish a connection between drinking and discrimination, the study’s authors point out several possibilities for future research. Most of the current research focuses on interpersonal discrimination, such as racial slurs. The authors say other research could focus on systematic and structural discrimination, such as neighborhood segregation. They also hope to see further analysis of which groups are most vulnerable to discrimination-related drinking.

The researchers also hope future studies will explore the types of drinking to which discrimination is correlated. For example, does discrimination merely increase drinking, or does it increase the risk of alcoholism?


  1. Alcohol facts and statistics. (2016, January). Retrieved from
  2. Does discrimination increase drinking? (2016, June 30). Retrieved from
  3. Fact sheets: Alcohol use and your health. (2016, June 29). Retrieved from
  4. Gilbert, P. A., & Zemore, S. E. (2016). Discrimination and drinking: A systematic review of the evidence. Social Science & Medicine, 161, 178-194. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.06.009

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  • Sammy

    July 12th, 2016 at 1:58 PM

    This could answer some questions but I don’t think that it gives us all of the answers that we might look for when it comes to who is going to be more likely to abuse alcohol and who may not.

  • Joy

    July 13th, 2016 at 11:07 AM

    It saddens me that there are so many different groups of people in what is supposed to be this meting pot who have all kinds of odds stacked against them.

  • Ollie

    July 13th, 2016 at 2:42 PM

    and yet I still know people who have had life pretty much handed to them on a silver platter and they still have a drinking problem

  • maisy

    July 14th, 2016 at 2:18 PM

    There are so many directions that you could go with a study like this. I think that there are a lot of critical elements to this that we have overlooked in the past but now we are a little more willing to open our eyes to the reality of. I would like to see what other information will eventually come out, and try to determine if much of this is environmental and if the discriminatory practices stopped, would the alcohol abuse end as well.

  • Donn

    July 15th, 2016 at 10:03 AM

    No matter what the cause of the drinking is, whatever you do, you have to try to find a way to stop the abuse.
    It is eventually going to take a huge toll on your body both physically and mentally and most of us can’t handle that kind of abuse over a sustained length of time.
    If you have ever thought about trying to stop and get some help, I hope that now is the time to consider doing just that.

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