African American College Students Subjected to Racial Discrimination at Risk for Alcohol Abuse

Studies have shown that African American college students are less likely than their White peers to participate in binge drinking. But a new study by researchers at Arizona State University and Virginia Commonwealth University has found that for those African American college students who are subjected to racial discrimination, they are more likely to exhibit depressive symptoms and engage in problem alcohol consumption.

“Black American college students drink less than their peers but are more likely to have problems from drinking. Understanding what the risks and protective factors are for this group is important,” said Jinni Su, assistant professor of psychology at Arizona State University and the lead author of the study. The authors’ research found that ‘racial discrimination was related to worse mental health outcomes, which increased the risk for alcohol use and related problems.”

Participants who had positive feelings about being a Black American had a weaker link between discrimination, mental health, and alcohol use. But, the association between racial discrimination, mental health, and alcohol use was stronger for the participants who thought that society viewed Black people positively. “We found that participants who felt good about being Black were buffered from the effects of how discrimination might impact their mental health and drinking behavior,” Dr. Su explained. “We also found that participants who think other people view them positively were more negatively impacted by discrimination, possibly because it is harder to understand unfair treatment.”

The full study, “Racial Discrimination, Depressive Symptoms, Ethnic–Racial Identity, and Alcohol Use Among Black American College Students,” was published on the website of the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. It may be accessed here.

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