Objective: To report national trends in alcohol consumption patterns among whites, blacks and Hispanics between 1984 and 1995, in relation to the recent decline in per capita consumption in the United States.
Method: Data were obtained from two nationwide probability samples of U.S. households, the first conducted in 1984 and the second in 1995. The 1984 sample consisted of 1,777 whites, 1,947 blacks and 1,453 Hispanics; the 1995 sample consisted of 1,636 whites, 1,582 blacks and 1,585 Hispanics. On both occasions, interviews averaging 1 hour in length were conducted in respondents' homes by trained interviewers.
Results: Between 1984 and 1995, the rate of abstention remained stable among whites but increased among blacks and Hispanics. Frequent heavy drinking decreased among white men (from 20% to 12%), but remained stable among black (15% in both surveys) and Hispanic men (17% and 18%). Frequent heavy drinking decreased among white women (from 5% to 2%), but remained stable among black (5% in both surveys) and Hispanic women (2% and 3%). White men and women were two times more likely to be frequent heavy drinkers in 1984 than in 1995.
Conclusions: The reduction in per capita consumption in the U.S. is differentially influencing white, black and Hispanic ethnic groups. The stability of rates of frequent heavy drinking places blacks and Hispanics at a higher risk for problem development than whites. This finding is, therefore, a concern to public health professionals and others interested in the prevention of alcohol-related problems among ethnic groups in the United States.