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Perceived Stress and Discrimination Influence on Alcohol Use Among Hispanics in a Culturally Plural Society

Montemayor, Benjamin Neil
High rates of discrimination and perceived stress are experienced by minority groups adjusting to a culturally-plural society. Hispanics are more susceptible to negative methods of coping, particularly alcohol use, to function as an escape, or as an attempt to alleviate or resolve personal problems. Because Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group (United States Census Bureau [USCB], 2011), it is important to identify the extent that alcohol is used to cope with discrimination and stress. Two invitations were sent to a random sample of 5000 undergraduate students to participate in a cross-sectional online survey. Students reported on basic demographic questions pertaining to race/ethnicity, gender, age, height, weight, Greek affiliation and year in school. In addition, the survey assessed for levels of discrimination, perceived stress and alcohol use in the past 30 days. Due to the nature of the study, the sample was restricted to evaluate only Hispanics and Non-Hispanic Whites to determine if levels of the variables were more prevalent in the Hispanic population than in Non-Hispanic Whites. Results provide evidence that Hispanics (n = 30) and Non-Hispanic Whites (n = 445) experienced similar levels of discrimination and perceived stress and revealed similar drinking habits in the last 30 days. Findings suggest that discrimination is experienced among both minority and majority populations in a southern regional university. Results of the survey revealed that Hispanics and Non-Hispanic Whites report having experienced discrimination in as much as 77% and 71% of the population, respectively. More than 80% of each population consumed alcohol at some point in the past 30 days. Although no correlation was revealed between alcohol consumption in the past month and discrimination or perceived stress, studies suggest that alcohol use as a coping method is linked to acculturation issues such as language conflicts, culture differences and customs in addition to discrimination and experiences of stress. Future studies have the capacity to benefit college students, especially minorities, at college campuses, by identifying influencing decisions and coping methods.