A Comparison of Excessive Drinking, Binge Drinking and Alcohol Dependence in Ethnic Minority Groups in the Netherlands: The HELIUS Study

Jan G C van Amsterdam, Annemieke Benschop, Simone van Binnendijk, Marieke B Snijder, Anja Lok, Aart H Schene, Eske M Derks, Wim van den Brink

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BACKGROUND: The Dutch multi-ethnic Healthy Life in an Urban Setting study recently showed that alcohol consumption was lower in ethnic minority groups than those of Dutch origin, but that binge drinking in drinkers of Turkish and Moroccan origin was relatively high. The aim of the current study is to examine factors that may contribute to the differences in drinking patterns and how they relate to the relationship between drinking patterns and alcohol dependence (AD) across ethnic groups.

METHODS: The rate of last year alcohol use, alcohol use patterns and AD was assessed in 4,635 Dutch, 4,317 Moroccan, 4,036 Turkish, 2,459 Ghanaian, 4,426 African Surinamese and 3,357 South-Asian Surinamese participants (both men and women) born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

RESULTS: Compared to the Dutch, the prevalence of (regular) drinking is substantially lower in all ethnic minority groups and regular drinkers among most ethnic minority groups have a lower adjusted risk to develop binge drinking and AD than the Dutch. For the prevalence of regular drinking, the ethnic differences are bigger than for the prevalence of current drinking. However, regular drinkers of Moroccan origin have a risk similar to the Dutch to develop binge drinking and AD; a finding that could not be explained by group differences in age, sex, religiosity, perceived discrimination, depression or guilt feelings about drinking.

DISCUSSION: The prevalence data show that current drinking is lower and that regular drinking is much lower in ethnic minorities and - with the exception of those of Moroccan origin - ethnic minority regular drinkers also have a significant lower risk to develop binge drinking or AD than regular drinkers of Dutch origin. This implies that the magnitude of problematic alcohol use is substantially smaller in ethnic minorities than in the ethnic Dutch population of Amsterdam. Unfortunately, no explanation was found for the special risk situation of regular drinkers of Moroccan origin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalEuropean Addiction Research
Issue number2
Early online date6 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


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