Objective: For the period of almost 75 years, we examined the literature for studies regarding the influences of culture on alcohol use and misuse.
Method: This review is a chronology of research articles published from 1940 to 2013. From a structured literature search with select criteria, 38 articles were identified and 34 reviewed.
Results: This analysis revealed a progression across this period of research from studies that began as descriptive ethnographic evaluations of one or more indigenous societies or cultural groups, evolving to studies using complex multivariate models to test cross-cultural effects in two or more cultural groups. Major findings across this period include the assertions that (a) a function of alcohol use may be to reduce anxiety, (b) certain cultural groups possess features of alcohol use that are not associated with negative consequences, (c) the disruptive effects of acculturative change and the stressors of new demands are associated with an increase in alcohol consumption, (d) cultural groups shape expectations about the effects of alcohol use and their definition of drunkenness, and (e) the hypothesized relationships of culture with alcohol use and misuse have been demonstrated in multivariate model analyses.
Conclusions: Across this 75-year period, the early proposition that culture is an important and prominent correlate of alcohol use and misuse has persisted. Within the current era of alcohol studies, this proposition has been supported by multivariate model analyses. Thus, the proposition that culture might affect alcohol use remains prominent and is as relevant today as it was when it was first proposed nearly 75 years ago.