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Alcoholism & Addiction

Study Examines Link Between Ethnic Background and Alcoholism

While some may believe alcoholism and drug abuse does not play favorites among different ethnic groups, research suggests that such use can wreak more havoc depending upon a person’s background.

Researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center suggest Hispanics with alcohol-induced problems – especially male Mexican Americans – endure significantly worse health and welfare than those from other ethnic groups. This study was featured in Science Daily.

"Problem drinking is particularly bad among male Mexican Americans, which is reflected by a three times higher prevalence rate of past heavy drinking in this population than that reported for non-Hispanic male populations," explained Yu-Jui Yvonne Wan, professor at The University of Kansas Medical Center and corresponding author for the study.

The study evaluated the influence that genes and environment have on alcoholism among Mexican Americans. Findings suggest the interaction between education and a polymorphism of the reward gene contribute to severe alcoholism among this population.

"Hispanics with alcohol-induced problems, such as alcoholic liver disease (ALD), appear to fare significantly less well than those with other ethnic backgrounds,” said Wan. “For example, the survival rate of Hispanic ALD patients after 4.5 years of follow-up is only 28 percent, in contrast to 66 percent for African Americans and 40 percent for Caucasians."

To conduct the study, researchers genotyped two groups of Mexican Americans living in Los Angeles County. One group consisted of 365 alcoholics, while the other group was made up of 338 non-alcoholics or controls.

Overall findings suggest that when an individual received less than or up to 12 years of education, greater drinking levels were observed. This finding implies that when the educational levels of Mexican Americans are improved, there is a potential counteract to the genetic risk factors to help prevent alcoholism.
 

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