Substance Use Among Minority Older Adults

Substance use in the United States has become an increasing problem not just among adolescents and young adults, but also among adults in their fifties and sixties. This population is rapidly growing worldwide, and in the US older adults are predicted to reach 25% of the total population by 2060, 45% of whom are expected to be non-White. As this population continues to grow and become increasingly diverse, issues of discrimination and its effects on health (particularly substance use) must be examined. Our study draws from the Perceived Unfairness Model to explain the role of discrimination on substance use in later life, while controlling for racial/ethnic groups. This is the first study to examine the role of discrimination on substance use across age groups and race/ethnicity. This study used data from the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (N = 35,339) to explore the association between cultural identity, discrimination, and substance use among older adults. Logistic regression models were fit to examine whether these associations differed according to race/ethnicity and age. Our results show a three-way interaction between discrimination, race/ethnicity, and age, indicating that the association between discrimination and substance use is greater among Hispanic older adults compared to other ethnicities and to younger age groups. These results have implications for future research about the negative effects of racial/ethnic discrimination among minority older adults, potential protective factors that may reduce risks for substance use, and the role of culture and language.

Health, Diversity, Public Policy, Substance Use, Discrimination

Public Policy and Public Perspectives on Aging

Focused Discussion

  • Laurent Reyes
    • PhD Student, School of Social Work, Rutgers University , United States United States
  • Peter Treitler
    • PhD Student, Rutgers University, United States United States