Alcohol and the Hispanic Community

Image of three hispanic people enjoying dinner

Hispanics are the largest and most rapidly growing ethnic group in the United States, making up about 17% of the population, or more than 50 million people. Research shows that drinking patterns among Hispanics are different from those of non-Hispanic White people and other ethnic or racial groups. Understanding these differences can help prevention, intervention, and treatment programs better serve the Hispanic community.

How Much Do Hispanics Drink?

Overall, Hispanics are less likely to drink at all than are non-Hispanic White people. In fact, Hispanics have high rates of abstinence from alcohol. However, Hispanics who choose to drink are more likely to consume higher volumes of alcohol than non-Hispanic White people.

What Is “Binge Drinking?”

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration to 0.08%—or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter—or more. This typically happens if a woman has four or more drinks, or a man has five or more drinks, within about 2 hours.

Selected Alcohol Consumption Statistics for Women and Men: U.S. Adults Ages 18 and Older


Non-Hispanic White Adults

Hispanic Adults

% who had at least one drink in the past year



% who had at least one drink in their lifetime, but not in the past year



% who had at least one drink in their lifetime



% who had no drinks in their lifetime 



% who drank in the past year, by usual number of drinks consumed per drinking day:












% who drank 4+/5+ drinks in the past year:



  At least once in the past year



  Less than once a month (1 to 11 times in

  past year, or < monthly)



  Monthly or more (12+ times in past year)



SOURCES: Blackwell DL, Lucas JW, Clarke TC. Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. Hyattsville (MD): National Center for Health Statistics; 2014. 171 p. (DHHS publication; no. (PHS) 2014-1588); (Vital  and health statistics. Series 10, Data from the National Health Interview Survey; no. 260).

What Factors Predict Drinking Behavior in the Hispanic Community?


Acculturation is the process of adapting to the beliefs, values, and behaviors of a new culture. A critical factor in predicting drinking patterns in the Hispanic community is the level of acculturation.

Living and working in the United States, raising families here, speaking English, and above all, getting an American education all contribute to adapting to American culture. However, as acculturation levels increase, so can alcohol consumption. The evidence is clear that as women become acculturated to American life, they tend to drink more alcohol. There is mixed evidence of the same effect for men.


In traditional Hispanic culture, women typically do not drink alcohol outside of small family gatherings or other private settings. For Hispanics in the United States, though, this cultural norm is changing. Recent evidence shows that some young Hispanic women are drinking as much as or more than young Hispanic men.


Research shows that young, U.S.-born Hispanic men who are not Protestant tend to have relaxed attitudes toward drinking. Those who feel this way also are more likely to drink, to drink heavily, and to possibly have alcohol-related problems. Within the Hispanic community, Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans tend to have more relaxed attitudes about drinking than Cuban Americans.

Drinking Trends by Country of National Origin

Trends in drinking among Hispanics vary by country of origin. Among men, Puerto Ricans tend to drink the most and Cubans the least. Among women, Puerto Ricans tend to drink the most and Mexicans the least. Across all Hispanic national groups, beer is the preferred beverage, followed by wine and then liquor.

How Much Is Too Much?

In the United States, a standard drink (also known as an alcoholic drink equivalent) is defined as any beverage containing 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in: 

  • 12 ounces of beer with 5% alcohol content
  • 5 ounces of wine with 12% alcohol content
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits with 40% alcohol content

Although the U.S. standard drink (alcoholic drink equivalent) amounts are helpful for following health guidelines, they may not reflect customary serving sizes. In addition, while the alcohol concentrations listed above are typical, there is considerable variability in alcohol content within each type of beverage.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025—which provide advice on what to eat and drink to meet nutrient needs, promote health, and prevent disease—adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and one drink or less in a day for women, when alcohol is consumed. Drinking less is better for health than drinking more. Some individuals should avoid alcohol completely.

Average Number of Drinks per Week (Beer, Wine, and Liquor) by Country or Nation of Origin

Country or Nation of Origin

Average Number of Drinks/Week for Men (irrespective of beverage)

Average Number of Drinks/Week for Women (irrespective of beverage)

Puerto Rico

16.9 (±1.6)

9.5 (±2.3)


15.9 (±1.7)

3.0 (±1.0)

South/Central America

8.9 (±0.8)

3.8 (±0.6)


8.4 (±0.9)

3.4 (±1.1)


Percentage of People Who Engaged in Binge Drinking in the Past Year by Country or Nation of Origin

Country or Nation of Origin

% of Drinking Men Who Binge Drink

% of Drinking Women Who Binge Drink

Puerto Rico






South/Central America






SOURCE: Ramisetty-Mikler S, Caetano R, Rodriguez LA. The Hispanic Americans Baseline Alcohol Survey (HABLAS): alcohol consumption and sociodemographic predictors across Hispanic national groups. J Subst Use. 2010 Jan 1;15(6):402-16. PubMed PMID: 23847447


Image of hispanic family preparing dinner

Consequences of Heavy Drinking

Severe Alcohol Use Disorder

About 9.5% of Hispanics will have severe alcohol use disorder (AUD) at some point in their lives as compared with about 13.8% of non-Hispanic White people. However, 33.0% of Hispanics who develop severe AUD have recurrent or persistent problems as compared with 22.8% of non-Hispanic White people.


Within the Hispanic Community, Rates of Severe Alcohol Use Disorder Vary by Country or Nation of Origin

Country/Nation of Origin

Rate of Severe Alcohol Use Disorder (%)

Puerto Rico




South/Central America




SOURCE: Chartier K, Caetano R. Ethnicity and health disparities in alcohol research. Alcohol Res Health. 2010;33(1-2):152-60.

NOTE: This study used criteria and terminology from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). DSM-IV "alcohol dependence" corresponds to severe AUD in current criteria and terminology as defined by the Fifth Edition of the DSM.


Image of hispanic couple

Drunk Driving

Among Hispanics who drink, Mexican American men and women and South/Central American men are most likely to receive a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol. Research shows that between 1992 and 2002, there was a decrease in the number of Hispanic men ages 18–29 who received a DUI but an increase in the number of Hispanic women ages 18–29 who received this citation.

Liver Disease

In general, Hispanic men develop liver disease at high rates. In fact, White Hispanic men have the highest rates of alcohol-related cirrhosis, a serious liver disease, of all ethnic or racial groups. But Black Hispanic men (e.g., from the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, or Cuba) have the lowest cirrhosis rates when compared with non-Hispanic White men.

Do Hispanics Seek Treatment for Alcohol Problems?

About 9.9% of Hispanics in the United States needed treatment for alcohol problems in the past year (from data collected between 2004 and 2011). Of those in need, about 9.3% received treatment in a special facility.1

Limited research shows that treatment can help Hispanics who speak English and who are highly acculturated to American life. Nevertheless, Hispanics with severe alcohol problems are less likely than non-Hispanic White people to seek the treatment they need. Hispanics also are less likely to join Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), even though AA groups are available for free and in Spanish.

Within the Hispanic Community, the Need for Treatment Varies by Country or Nation of Origin

Country/Nation of Origin

Need for Alcohol Use Treatment (%)



Puerto Rico


South/Central America




SOURCE: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).1

For more information, please visit Rethinking Drinking at:

1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The NSDUH Report data spotlight: Hispanic subgroups differ in rates of substance use treatment need and receipt. Rockville (MD): SAMHSA; 2013, 1 p. Available fom:

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