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Soc Sci Med. 2016 Jul;161:178-94. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.06.009. Epub 2016 Jun 9.

Discrimination and drinking: A systematic review of the evidence.

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Department of Community and Behavioral Health, University of Iowa College of Public Health, 145N. Riverside Drive, N414 CPHB, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA; Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute, 6475 Christie Avenue, Suite 400, Emeryville, CA 94608-1010, USA. Electronic address:
Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute, 6475 Christie Avenue, Suite 400, Emeryville, CA 94608-1010, USA.


Although it is widely accepted that discrimination is associated with heavy and hazardous drinking, particularly within stress and coping frameworks, there has been no comprehensive review of the evidence. In response, we conducted a systematic review of the English language peer-reviewed literature to summarize studies of discrimination and alcohol-related outcomes, broadly defined. Searching six online data bases, we identified 938 non-duplicative titles published between 1980 and 2015, of which 97 met all inclusion criteria for our review and reported quantitative tests of associations between discrimination and alcohol use. We extracted key study characteristics and assessed quality based on reported methodological details. Papers generally supported a positive association; however, the quantity and quality of evidence varied considerably. The largest number of studies was of racial/ethnic discrimination among African Americans in the United States, followed by sexual orientation and gender discrimination. Studies of racial/ethnic discrimination were notable for their frequent use of complex modeling (i.e., mediation, moderation) but focused nearly exclusively on interpersonal discrimination. In contrast, studies of sexual orientation discrimination (i.e., heterosexism, homophobia) examined both internalized and interpersonal aspects; however, the literature largely relied on global tests of association using cross-sectional data. Some populations (e.g., Native Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders) and types of discrimination (e.g., systemic/structural racism; ageism) received scant attention. This review extends our knowledge of a key social determinant of health through alcohol use. We identified gaps in the evidence base and suggest directions for future research related to discrimination and alcohol misuse.


Alcohol use disorders; Binge drinking; Homophobia; Racism; Sexism

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