Acculturation Increases Risk for Substance Use by Foreign-Born Youth
Foreign-born youth report lower rates of substance use than U.S.-born
youth, but their risk for substance use increases the longer they
live in the United States, according to the findings of a new SAMHSA
study published in a recent issue of the American Journal of
The article, "Substance Use Among Foreign-Born Youths in
the United States: Does the Length of Residence Matter?" is
written by Joseph C. Gfroerer and Lucilla L. Tan of SAMHSA'
Office of Applied Studies. The authors discovered that foreign-born
youth who had lived in the United States less than 5 years had lower
prevalences of substance use than young people who were born in
the United States. Yet, prevalence estimates for foreign-born youth
who had lived in the United States for 10 years or longer were not
significantly different than estimates for U.S.-born youth, except
that U.S.-born youth reported substantially higher rates of heavy
The study reinforces the results of previous studies pointing
to lower rates of substance use among foreign-born youth compared
with U.S.-born youth, but increased risk of use as they become assimilated
within American society. What makes this study unique is that it
offers the first national estimates of the prevalence of substance
use among foreign-born youth age 12 to 17. It also explores the
relationship between acculturation, which is defined in this study
as the length of time a young person has lived in the United States,
and substance use.
"A better understanding of these results could be gained
by studying how acculturation interacts with known risk and protective
factors for substance use," the authors state
in the article. "Research in this area should help prevention
planners design programs that appropriately consider acculturation
to reduce substance use among immigrant youth."
Acculturation within U.S. society occurs through interaction with
parents and peers, education, and exposure to television, movies,
magazines, and other media—each of which may influence a young
person' attitudes about substance use. The authors suggest
that youth who are more fluent in English may have more access to
substances of abuse because they are more familiar with ways to
find and obtain substances of abuse in the community. For example,
prevalence estimates for Hispanics were higher among those who responded
in English than those who answered questions in Spanish.
The study was based on a sample of 50,947 young people who participated
in SAMHSA' 1999 and 2000 National Household Survey on Drug
Abuse, an ongoing nationally representative survey of the civilian,
noninstitutional population age 12 and older.
Respondents could answer questions in either English or Spanish.
Some 7.1 percent of those in the sample were foreign-born, and of
those, 28.4 percent were born in Mexico, 5.1 percent in Germany,
4.6 percent in the Philippines, and 3.0 percent in India, Vietnam,
and Korea (North and South).
Related MaterialPast-Month Substance Use Among Foreign-Born Youth Age 12 to 17 vs. U.S.-Born Youth »
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