Data from the newly unveiled National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcoholism and Related Conditions (NESARC) are outlining the clear role of culture in alcoholism and related disorders. For example, the findings indicate that when it comes to drinking, "acculturation is basically bad for your health," says survey director Bridget Grant, PhD, PhD, a psychologist and epidemiologist.

Although the data are complex, NESARC showed that being born outside the United States had a protective effect; in the same ethnic group, someone born in the United States was far more likely to have a behavioral disorder than an immigrant.

NESARC oversampled for African Americans and Hispanics to gain large enough populations for meaningful estimates. NESARC's size also allowed the agency to do the first prevalence estimates among small minority populations, such as American Indians, who were found to have high rates of every type of disorder, including depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse, and Asian-Americans, who had low prevalence of such disorders. The longitudinal data will, Grant hopes, allow NESARC to more precisely distinguish between prevalence rates of these problems among the nation's ethnic groups, for example between Chinese- and Japanese-Americans and among people with origins in Puerto Rico, Mexico or Cuba.

- R. Adelson