Are we missing vital information? Hispanic Women with Alcohol Abuse and Mental Disorders

One of the biggest things that have I have become aware of since coming to college is the increase in awareness of alcohol abuse within the Hispanic/Latinx community. While looking for research topics for my paper, I noticed an underrepresentation of research in mental disorders and alcohol abuse within the Hispanic population.[1] Let’s take a closer look at the population in general.

The Recorder - Cultural evolution: Hispanic population carves ...

What do the numbers look like?

Let’s begin by comparing women in different ethnic backgrounds in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2018 who’ve had alcohol dependency or abuse in the past year.[2]


White Women 


Black Women 


Asian Women 

Hispanic Women 
Alcohol dependence or abuse (in the past year)B  % (95% CIC)  9.99 









ANSDUH 2018: Race/Hispanicity 

BNSDUH 2018: Had alcohol dependence or abuse in the past year 

C: CI means Confidence Interval 

When looking at just the percentages from the 2018 survey, we see that among the minorities, women who identified as Hispanic had the largest percentage of alcohol dependence or abuse in the past year compared to Non-Hispanic Black women and Non-Hispanic Asian women. There is a high percentage of abuse among Latinas but there isn’t enough research on how to help women with this cultural background.

So, what’s the reason behind this? Let’s start with understanding Hispanic culture and the relationship that they have with mental disorders.

Latin Americans and Barriers to Mental Health

Now in order to understand why further research hasn’t been done, it’s important to learn about the barriers that can stop people from seeking help. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has identified key factors that could prevent Hispanics from seeking help.[3]

  • Cultural barriers, language barriers, and other barriers to communication
  • Issues with discrimination and even perceived discrimination
  • Fears of being singled out or persecuted
  • The level of acculturation achieved by the particular individual
  • Barriers to access to medical care
  • Cultural views of treatment for addiction
  • Family responsibilities that may result in some individuals not seeking treatment
  • Stigma or shame associated with being diagnosed with an addiction or alcohol use disorder or being in treatment for one
  • Obvious issues with undocumented immigrants, such as the fear of deportation, fears of persecution, lack of resources, etc.

Overcoming Mental Health Stigma in the Latino Community – Consult QD

One of the key points that resonates the strongest among Hispanics is the very first bullet point. Current research has shown that immigrants who reject American culture are 10x less likely to report alcohol abuse than immigrants who accept American culture. Those who accept American culture are more suspectable to peer pressure with alcohol abuse and even more likely to develop chronic and recurring problems associated with their addictive behavior. [4]

How to Treat Hispanic Women with Alcohol Abuse and Mental Disorders

The first step is to realize the cultural differences in the Hispanic culture will also translate when treating mental health disorders associated with alcohol abuse. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are guidelines to follow for those coming from Hispanic cultures.[5] The first step is to be able to find someone who speaks the language. In the United States, language barriers are an issue when trying to help immigrant communities, not just Hispanics.

Finding someone who has the same cultural background is a hurdle in getting help and recovering. The lack of representation is something that does stop many from seeking help as most believe that no one will be able to relate to what they have gone through. This includes views on how Hispanics see alcohol consumption, how gender roles affect alcohol consumption, and lastly the stigma toward mental health in general.

A big cultural factor affecting recovery is how family-oriented the Hispanic household is. The biggest thing when someone seeks help for substance use disorder is therapy. Therefore, family therapy is strongly recommended to help Hispanics on the road to recovery. In fact, recent studies have shown that Hispanic families relied more on extended family more than friends.[6] In a recent study by the American Psychological Association showed that acculturation is needed in order to expand ethnic inclusivity in research and improve practices for minorities dealing with mental health disorders. [7]The History and Effects of Mental Health Trauma in the Hispanic ...

Now and Beyond

Currently, there are programs being expanded in order to help the Latinx community. For example, the SAMHSA website outlines different programs to help combat the stigma in mental health and substance abuse written in both English & Spanish.[8] Programs include teaching parents/caregivers’ methods to talk to adolescents about the harm that can come from alcohol abuse. The website also includes clinics and healthcare professional guidelines on how to help those in Hispanic culture with alcohol abuse.

There is still a strong need to expand representation in all fields regarding mental health and alcohol abuse. As the Hispanic population grows in the United States, so will the research and practices will become refined.



  1. “Alcohol and the Hispanic Community.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 26 June 2019,
  2. SAMHDA. (20 May, 2020). National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2018. Retrieved from!=6,3,4&results_received=false&row=ABODALC&run_chisq=false&weight=ANALWT_C  
  1. “Information on Hispanic Alcoholism & Rehab Rates.” org, 13 Dec. 2019,
  2. Myers, Raquel, et al. “Acculturation and Substance Use: Social Influence as a Mediator among Hispanic Alternative High School Youth.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2009,
  3. “CSAT.” gov, 14 Apr. 2020,
  4. Alvarez, Josefina, et al. “Substance Abuse Prevalence and Treatment among Latinos and Latinas.” Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2007,
  5. Berry JW. Conceptual approaches to acculturation. In: Chun KM, Organista PB, Marin G, editors. Acculturation: Advances in theory, measurement, and applied research. Washington, D. C.: American Psychological Association; 2003. pp. 17–38. 
  6. Schwartz, S. J., & Zamboanga, B. L. (2008). Testing Berry’s model of acculturation: A confirmatory latent class approach. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 14(4), 275–285.

2 thoughts on “Are we missing vital information? Hispanic Women with Alcohol Abuse and Mental Disorders

  1. I am very concerned with Hispanics drinking and with alcohol abuse, based on personal observation. Being born and raised in Puerto Rico, I often noticed how the alcohol age minimum was 18, but myself and the vast majority of Puerto Rican kids would start drinking around 14 years old, and many times the alcohol is furnished by parents and relatives, even though the law says that is prohibited. However, the police in Puerto Rico doesn’t assert the laws much. Many cops will go and enjoy drinking as well… it is an important social factor in Puerto Rican celebrations after all.

    Another concern I have too is the mental health aspect of it. I would say that in general, mental health is not seen as big of a deal in Hispanic communities and countries. It’s almost a taboo to speak about mental health problems with anyone, especially with your family, and some might shame you or misunderstand you. This also comes from some personal experience. And as you said, Hispanics/Latinos are very family-oriented so any Hispanic would avoid upsetting family. This is a big issue in admitting and controlling any type of substance abuse.

  2. Great post. I think it is a fascinating topic since Hispanics and Latinos are the largest ethnic minority group in the U.S.. However, I believe it is incorrect that researchers usually classify Latinos as a single ethnic group since Latinos are many heterogeneous subgroups that differ from country of origin, culture, and genetic perspective. For example, I saw research that mentions that foreign-born Latinos are less likely to experience substance abuse disorders than U.S. born Latinos. Apparently, alcohol consumption generally becomes more intense with each generation.
    Furthermore, the prevalence of alcohol addiction also varies by country of origin. For example, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Mexicans living in the U.S. may have a different prevalence of AUD since they generally have different consumption patterns. Consequently, I believe that additional research on minorities, especially Latinos, is critical, but even more important is to identify Latinos as a very diverse group.This is to gain a much more comprehensive understanding of diseases and to treat and prevent public problems for all different groups adequately.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *