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Asian Am J Psychol. 2012 Sep;3(3):160-167.

Heavy Drinking, Poor Mental Health, and Substance Use Among Asian Americans in the NLAAS: A Gender-Based Comparison.

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Department of Psychology, University of Hartford.
Institute on Urban Health Research College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University.
Department of Psychology and Center for Addictions, Personality and Emotion Research, University of Maryland, College Park.


The severity of heavy drinking among Asian Americans has often been dismissed because of relatively low rates compared to other racial/ethnic groups. However, higher depression and suicide rates among Asian Americans and their association to alcohol use suggest serious detrimental effects of heavy alcohol use among Asian Americans. Gender differences in heavy drinking have been documented among other immigrant based ethnic minorities, little is known of this pattern for Asian Americans. The purpose of the present study was to examine gender differences in heavy drinking, poor mental health, and substance use among a national sample of Asian Americans (N = 581) in the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS). Using National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) guidelines, heavy drinkers were categorized as those who exceeded the recommended weekly number of drinks (≥14 drinks/week for male and ≥7 drinks/week for female). Accordingly, six comparison groups were created (male non, light, and heavy drinkers, and female non, light, and heavy drinkers). Pearson's chi-square test was conducted to examine percentage distribution for the six groups for mental health disorders (i.e., suicidality, DSM-IV mental health endorsement for past 12-month and lifetime). Logistic regression was followed to determined predictors for heavy drinking behavior for men and for women. Female heavy drinkers reported significantly poorer mental health than non drinkers, light drinkers and male heavy drinkers, as indicated by higher rates of lifetime generalized anxiety, and depressive disorders. In contrast, male heavy drinkers were more likely to have lifetime substance use disorders. 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.


Asian American; alcohol; heavy drinking; mental health; substance use

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