Acculturation-related Measures, Ethnic Discrimination, and Drinking Outcomes Among U.S. Latinos
With implications for chronic disease and mortality, alcohol-related problems represent a threat to population health. Among U.S. Latinos, the process of acculturation has traditionally been identified as a predictor of drinking outcomes. However, past research on the relationship between acculturation and drinking has varied widely, leaving uncertainties regarding the circumstances under which the relationship operates or the reasons why the relationship is observed. The present study therefore explored the intricacies of the relationship between acculturation-related measures and drinking outcomes among U.S. Latinos, highlighting within-group variation based on sex and heritage country/region and the importance of examining mediators. Using a population-based probability sample of U.S. adults (NESARC-III, 2012-2013), the present study examined data from 7,037 self-identified Latinos. Using multivariable regression analyses, the study tested relationships between various conventionally-used acculturation measures (including proxy measures and an acculturation scale) and a range of drinking outcomes: drinking status, average daily ethanol intake, and DSM-5 alcohol use disorder. Moderation analyses examined the role of sex and heritage country/region. Finally, the study employed mediation analysis to test the hypothesized role of self-reported perceived ethnic discrimination as a mediator in the relationship between acculturation-related measures and drinking outcomes. Results indicated a significant and positive, albeit modest, relationship between acculturation-related measures and a range of drinking outcomes. Many of these relationships varied by sex or heritage country/region, depending on the specific acculturation-related measure and drinking outcome examined. Notably, the link between acculturation-related measures and DSM-5 alcohol use disorder was consistent for men and women. For Latino men, results of mediation analyses indicated that self-reported perceived ethnic discrimination acted as a partial mediator in the relationship between two acculturation-related measures and past-year DSM-5 alcohol use disorder. This finding lends credence to the notion that ethnic discrimination and experiences of “othering”—which can accompany the process of acculturation—may help explain problem drinking in U.S. Latino adult men. Further research is needed to uncover the variety of experiences or structures of discrimination involved in problem drinking among U.S. Latinos. Mediators in the relationship between acculturation and problem drinking may provide opportunities for intervention to weaken this detrimental relationship.