Racial discrimination, depressive symptoms, ethnic-racial identity, and alcohol use among Black American college students

Psychol Addict Behav. 2021 Aug;35(5):523-535. doi: 10.1037/adb0000717.


Background: Racial discrimination is prevalent among Black Americans, and may increase risk for alcohol use and related problems. Understanding the mediating and moderating factors in the pathways linking racial discrimination to alcohol use outcomes is important for prevention and intervention efforts. We tested depressive symptoms as a mediator and ethnic-racial identity as a moderator in the relation between racial discrimination and alcohol use outcomes among Black American young adults.

Methods: We used data from 2 independent samples of Black American young adults recruited from different regions in the United States. The first sample included 383 Black American young adults (Mage = 20.65, SD = 2.28; 81% female), and the second sample included 165 Black American young adults (Mage = 21.56, SD = 4.92; 75% female).

Results: Racial discrimination was associated with alcohol consumption and problems indirectly via depressive symptoms across the 2 independent samples. Moderation was evident for one sample such that high private regard levels buffered the association between racial discrimination and alcohol consumption, whereas high public regard levels exacerbated the association between racial discrimination and depressive symptoms.

Conclusions: Racial discrimination experiences put Black American young adults at risk for alcohol use and related problems through increased depressive symptoms. Ethnic-racial identity may buffer or exacerbate these associations depending on the specific dimension. The findings imply the need to target depressive symptoms and alcohol use simultaneously to promote health and well-being among Black Americans. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking* / ethnology
  • Black or African American* / psychology
  • Black or African American* / statistics & numerical data
  • Depression* / ethnology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Racism* / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Identification*
  • Students* / psychology
  • Students* / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult