Characteristics of Malt Liquor Beer Drinkers in a Low-Income, Racial Minority Community Sample

Published in: Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, v. 29, no. 3, Mar. 2005, p. 402-409

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2005

by Ricky N. Bluthenthal, Didra Brown Taylor, Norma Guzman-Becerra, Paul L. Robinson

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BACKGROUND: The authors describe and compare drinking patterns among malt liquor beer (MLB), regular beer (RB), and hard liquor (HL) drinkers in a low-income, racial/ethnic minority community. METHODS: Drinkers were recruited from randomly selected alcohol outlets in South Los Angeles. Respondents were assessed on sociodemographic characteristics, alcohol use history, drinking patterns, and drinking context among other items in a face-to-face interview with research staff. RESULTS: Three hundred twenty-nine drinkers were interviewed, of whom 297 reported drinking MLB, RB, or HL brands of alcohol most often in the past 90 days. This subsample was 88% African-American, 72% male, and 35% unemployed. As compared with RB and HL drinkers, MLB drinkers were more likely to be homeless, to receive public assistance for housing, and to be unemployed. MLB drinkers also reported significantly higher rates of daily or near-daily drinking (74%, as compared with 48% for RB and 29% for HL) of drinks per day on drinking days (5.2, as compared with 4.2 for RB and 3.1 for HL), and daily average ethanol consumption (6.97 oz, as compared with 2.13 oz for RB drinkers and 6.13 oz for HL drinkers). In multinomial regression analysis that controlled for potential confounders, the odds of preferring RB as compared with MLB were significantly increased among persons with blue-collar occupations and those who reported drinking in public settings and were reduced among persons who drank outdoors, those who combined drinking with tobacco smoking, and those who drank alcohol with members of the same sex. Average daily ethanol consumption odds were reduced for RB drinkers as compared with MLB drinkers. The odds of preferring HL as compared with MLB were significantly increased for persons with white-collar occupations and those who drank in public settings and were reduced for persons who drank outdoors and those who combined drinking and smoking. CONCLUSION: The authors observed substantial differences in sociodemographic characteristics, drinking patterns, and ethanol consumption by beverage type in this community sample. MLB drinkers seem to have distinctive drinking patterns that require additional study to determine whether this pattern is associated with increased individual or community risk.

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