There are substantial racial/ethnic disparities in substance use and mental health among civilian populations, but few studies have examined these disparities in veterans using a nationally representative sample. Thus, we examined differences in substance dependence and serious psychological distress (SPD) by race/ethnicity among a national sample of US veterans.
We pooled cross-sectional data from the 2015–2019 waves of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (N = 7,653 veterans aged 18–64 years). Regression models were utilized to examine racial/ethnic differences in DSM-IV substance dependence and SPD with a Benjamini–Hochberg correction applied.
Compared to non-Hispanic White veterans: American Indian/Alaska Native veterans had significantly higher odds of past-year alcohol dependence (AOR = 2.55, 95% CI: 1.28, 5.08); Asian American veterans had significantly lower odds of past-year alcohol dependence (AOR = 0.12, 95% CI: 0.02, 0.62); non-Hispanic Black (AOR = 0.60, 95% CI: 0.48, 0.77), Hispanic (AOR = 0.47, 95% CI: 0.34, 0.65), and veterans of more than one race (AOR = 0.55, 95% CI: 0.36, 0.83) had significantly lower odds of past-month nicotine dependence; Asian American veterans had significantly lower odds of past-year illicit drug dependence (AOR = 0.05, 95% CI: 0.01, 0.35); and non-Hispanic Black veterans had significantly lower odds of past-year SPD (AOR = 0.69, 95% CI: 0.55, 0.85) after correction for multiple comparisons.
Overall, racial/ethnic disparities in substance dependence and SPD among veterans are not as stark as in civilian populations, but some disparities remain.