Alcohol Use

A Culturally-Relevant Perspective on This Issue

Introduction

Alcohol use has been identified as a problem among Aboriginal communities and can lead to violence, sexual and physical abuse, accidents, self-inflicted injury, and death [1]. However, data on the extent and impact of alcohol use on Aboriginal communities are lacking. A number of risk factors have been linked to alcohol use in Aboriginal populations such as poverty, depression, and history of attendance at residential/boarding schools, childhood abuse, and being a victim of physical or sexual violence and/or a history of family violence [2,3].

First Nations

The rate of alcohol use is lower among First Nations communities (66%) compared to the general population (79%). However, alcohol misuse is a growing concern among First Nations communities who do use alcohol.  Alcohol-related deaths among First Nations people are six times higher compared to the general population [4]. First Nations men are more likely (69%) to drink alcohol than women (62%).  However, the proportion of heavy drinkers among First Nations people is more than double compared to the general population (16% versus 6%), with First Nations men being more than twice as likely to be heavy drinkers compared to women (21% versus 10%) [5].

Métis

Alcohol abuse is also considered a problem among Métis communities [6], however there is a lack of data available regarding alcohol use among the Métis. Improved data collection on alcohol use among Métis people is needed.

Inuit

The Pauktuutit Inuit Women’s Association identified alcohol misuse to be among the Inuit communities’ prominent health problems [7]. For example, there has been a 14% increase in alcohol use in Nunavik since 1992. Although the drinking prevalence in Inuit communities is low compared to the rest of Canada, binge drinking is the most prevalent pattern among those who drink, leading to increases social and health problems such as violence, abuse, accidents, and death in Inuit communities [1,8]. In Nunavik (the northern third of Quebec), 90% of drinkers reported having drunk heavily within the previous year, a rate which is double that of the general population [8]. More data is needed to understand alcohol use/abuse in Inuit communities. Also, culturally appropriate measures need to be developed to address the growing problem of alcohol abuse among Inuit communities.

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