Mirror, mirror on the wall, who are the biggest Latino boozers of them all?
Everybody's got anecdotal evidence or stories about Latino drinking. Heck, comedian George Lopez is always riffing about Latino drinking to the point where some say he's making it seem too cool. I don't know about that, but here are some actual statistics about alcohol and drug use among Hispanics.
A survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says:
We Hispanics don't drink or abuse drugs as much as the general population but binge drinking is higher among Latinos and, sadly, Puerto Ricans lead the pack. In fact, binge drinking is the only category that is higher for Hispanics than the general population. But the good news is alcohol use and illicit drug use are down for all Latinos.
Understanding alcohol and drug use among Latinos is important as the population group gains in numbers and influence. SAMHSA correctly points out that it's vital to address health disparities among groups. I don't think anyone will argue that these numbers foretell potential future health issues.
Two groups stand out in the SAMHSA survey: Spaniards and Puerto Ricans. The Spaniards are the biggest alcohol drinkers, with a whopping 61 percent saying they drink, followed by Cubans, with 57 percent. Dominicans are the group that drinks the least, with 40 percent.
For the record, SAMSHA is counting substance use in the past month for survey years 2004 through 2008.
Among binge drinkers, Puerto Ricans stand out, with nearly 29 percent acknowledging they binge drink. Puerto Ricans are followed by Mexicans (28 percent) and Spaniards (27 percent).
Of the groups who are using illicit or illegal drugs, again the Spaniards and Puerto Ricans rate high. About 13 percent of Spaniards say they are using illicit drugs versus nearly 10 percent of Puerto Ricans. The group that uses illegal drugs the least are Dominicans.
As expected, the numbers vary according to legal status, with U.S.-born Latinos scoring higher in all three categories, according to SAMSHA. Alcohol use reflects the biggest difference. U.S. born Latinos are much likelier to drink (nearly 58 percent) versus foreign born (37 percent). A 20 point-chasm is considered very statistically significant, my friends.
The gulf between native and foreign born in the other categories is not as large but important nonetheless. Binge drinking, 33 percent vs. 22 percent; illicit drug use 11 percent vs. 3 percent. This certainly makes you wonder, why the difference? My guess: the foreign born are too busy trabajando to be boozing or drugging it up. They have to work so many hours a week and send money back home.
Share this study with friends and family and get a discussion going about Latino drinking. Do we Hispanics drink too much?