Alcohol abuse is now another adverse health outcome researchers have linked to racial discrimination.

Previous studies have linked health disparities in cardiovascular disease and other ailments to discrimination, including one previously reported on by the AFRO which tracked the physiological impact of discrimination on youth and adults and found that “everyday discrimination affects biology in ways that have small but cumulative negative effects over time.”


Now, researchers at the University of Iowa (UI) are adding alcohol abuse to the scope of discrimination-related health concerns. The group found 97 peer-reviewed, published research papers providing solid links between discrimination and hazardous drinking.

“Our study supports the notion that discrimination is harmful to health, specifically through alcohol,” lead author Paul Gilbert, assistant professor of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the UI College of Public Health, said in a statement.

Gilbert acknowledged there were gaps in the research, however. He cited a need for a closer look at discrimination among other groups and also the kind of discrimination—systemic, internalized or otherwise—that is most closely linked to the alcohol abuse and also the types of alcohol abuse linked to being discriminated against.

“The basic knowledge is now there,” Gilbert said. “The next step to advance science is to say what specific groups are involved, what specific type of discrimination are they experiencing, and what specifically were the alcohol outcomes. Was it just heavier drinking, or was it heavy drinking that led to dependence—or is it alcohol-related problems like getting in a car crash or work and family problems?”

The paper, “Discrimination and Drinking: A Systematic Review of the Evidence,” was published online in June in Social Science & Medicine and can be found online here.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO