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Alcohol and the Hispanic Community

Image of three hispanic people enjoying dinner

Hispanics are the largest and most rapidly growing ethnic group in the United States, making up about 17 percent of the population, or more than 50 million people. Research shows that drinking patterns among Hispanics are different from those of non-Hispanic Whites and other ethnic or racial groups. Understanding these differences can help prevention, intervention, and treatment programs better serve the Hispanic community.

How Much Do Hispanics Drink?

Overall, Hispanics are less likely to drink at all than are non-Hispanic Whites. In fact, Hispanics have high rates of abstinence from alcohol. But Hispanics who choose to drink are more likely to consume higher volumes of alcohol than non-Hispanic Whites.

Selected consumption statistics for women and men:
U.S. adults 18 years of age and older


Non-Hispanic White


% who had at least 1 drink in the past year



% who had at least 1 drink in their lifetime, but not in the past year



% who had at least 1 drink in their lifetime



% total lifetime abstainers (not even 1 drink)



% of past-year drinkers, by usual number of drinks consumed per drinking day:












% of past-year drinkers who drank 4+/5+ drinks on an occasion:



  At least once in the past year



  Less than once a month (1 to 11 times in
  past year, or < monthly)



  Monthly or more (12+ times in past year)



SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey 2012, Vital Health Statistics. Series 10, Number 260, February 2014, Table 25; National data collected during 2001–2002.

What Factors Predict Drinking Behavior in the Hispanic Community?


Acculturation is the process of adapting to the beliefs, values, and behaviors of a new culture. A critical factor in predicting drinking patterns in the Hispanic community is level of acculturation.

Living and working in the United States, raising families here, speaking English, and above all, getting an American education all contribute to adapting to American culture. But as acculturation levels increase, so can alcohol consumption. The evidence is clear that as women become acculturated to American life, they tend to drink more alcohol. There is mixed evidence of the same effect for men.


In traditional Hispanic culture, women typically do not drink alcohol outside of small family gatherings or other private settings. For Hispanics in the United States, though, this cultural norm is changing. Recent evidence shows some young Hispanic women are drinking as much or even more than young Hispanic men.


Research shows that young, U.S.-born Hispanic men who are not Protestant tend to have relaxed attitudes toward drinking. Those who feel this way also are more likely to drink, to drink heavily, and to possibly have alcohol-related problems. Within the Hispanic community, Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans tend to have more relaxed attitudes about drinking than Cuban Americans.

Drinking Trends by Country of National Origin

Trends in drinking among Hispanics vary by country of origin. Among men, Puerto Ricans tend to drink the most and Cubans the least. Among women, Puerto Ricans tend to drink the most and Mexicans the least. Across all Hispanic national groups, beer is the preferred beverage, followed by wine and then liquor.


Average number of drinks per week (beer, wine, and liquor)
by country/nation of origin

Country/Nation of Origin

Average Number of Drinks/Week for Men (irrespective of beverage)

Average Number of Drinks/Week for Women (irrespective of beverage)

Puerto Rico

16.9 (±1.6)

9.5 (±2.3)


15.9 (±1.7)

3.0 (±1.0)

South/Central America

8.9 (±0.8)

3.8 (±0.6)


8.4 (±0.9)

3.4 (±1.1)

Percent of past-year drinkers who binge drink by
country/nation of origin

Country/Nation of Origin

% of Drinking Men Who Binge Drink

% of Drinking Women Who Binge Drink

Puerto Rico






South/Central America






SOURCE: Ramisetty-Mikler, S.; Caetano, R.; and Rodriguez, L.A. The Hispanic Americans Baseline Alcohol Survey (HABLAS): Alcohol consumption and sociodemographic predictors across Hispanic national groups. Journal of Substance Use 15(6):402–416, 2010.


Image of hispanic family preparing dinner

Consequences of Heavy Drinking

Alcohol dependence

About 9.5 percent of Hispanics will have alcohol dependence at some point in their lives, as compared with about 13.8 percent of non-Hispanic Whites. But 33 percent of Hispanics who become alcohol dependent have recurrent or persistent problems compared with 22.8 percent of non-Hispanic Whites.

Within the Hispanic community, rates of alcohol dependence
vary by country or nation of origin

Country/Nation of Origin

Rate of Alcohol Dependence (Percent)

Puerto Rico




South/Central America




SOURCE: Chartier, K., and Caetano, R. Ethnicity and health disparities in alcohol research. Alcohol Research & Health 33(1 and 2):154, 2010.


Drunk driving

Among Hispanics who drink, Mexican American men and women and South/Central American men are most likely to receive a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol. Research shows that between 1992 and 2002, there was a decrease in the number of Hispanic men (ages 18–29) who received a DUI, but an increase in the number of Hispanic women (ages 18–29) who received this citation.

Liver disease

In general, Hispanic men develop liver disease at high rates. In fact, White Hispanic men have the highest rates of alcohol-related cirrhosis, a serious liver disease, of all ethnic or racial groups. But Black Hispanic men (e.g., from the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, or Cuba) have the lowest cirrhosis rates when compared with non-Hispanic Whites.

Image of hispanic couple

Do Hispanics Seek Treatment for Alcohol Problems?

About 9.9 percent of Hispanics in the United States needed treatment for alcohol problems in the past year (data collected between 2004 and 2011). Of those in need, about 9.3 percent received treatment in a special facility.1

Limited research shows that treatment can help Hispanics who speak English and who are highly acculturated to American life. Nevertheless, Hispanics with severe alcohol problems are less likely than non-Hispanic Whites to seek the treatment they need. Hispanics also are less likely to join Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), even though AA groups are available for free and in Spanish.

Within the Hispanic community, the need for treatment
varies by country or nation of origin

Country/Nation of Origin

Need for Alcohol Use Treatment (Percent)



Puerto Rico


South/Central America




SOURCE: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).1

For more information, please visit:

1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 2013 Hispanic Subgroups Differ in Rates of Substance Use Treatment Need and Receipt. National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Report, October 24, 2013. Available at:

Updated December 2015