“Our study supports the notion that discrimination is harmful to health, specifically through alcohol,” said lead author of the study Paul Gilbert, Assistant Professor at University of Iowa.
Experts have known for decades that drinking is a common coping response to stress - a phenomenon called stress-reactive drinking, Gilbert said. As drinking is also recognised as a stressor, the researchers wanted to find out if people drink in response to discrimination. The findings were published online in the journal Social Science & Medicine. Gilbert searched six online databases for studies related to discrimination and drinking, winnowing his potential sources down to about 1,200 scientific studies that met his criteria.
From there, he identified 97 peer-reviewed, published research papers with quantitative evidence that showed a link between discrimination and heavy and hazardous drinking. Seventy-one studies involved racial discrimination, and the rest examined discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender.
The researchers found that alcohol abuse is one of the negative health outcomes of discrimination. The study also identified gaps in the research. For example, the majority of studies involved interpersonal discrimination against African Americans, such as being treated poorly in a store or being called a name.
More studies need to be done about discrimination against other groups, including other racial and ethnic groups, and discrimination due to religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, or disability status, Gilbert said.