Examining differences in drinking patterns among Jewish and Arab university students in Israel

Sharon R. Sznitman, Shiran Bord, Wafa Elias, Anat Gesser-Edelsburg, Yoram Shiftan, Orna Baron-Epel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. Worldwide there is a dearth of studies examining drinking patterns in Arabs and how these compare to other populations. The few studies that exist have suggested distinct drinking patterns in Arabs, with not only high rates of abstinence but also high rates of heavy drinking among current drinkers. No studies have yet examined potential socio-cognitive mechanisms that may contribute to this distinct drinking pattern. Israel represents a unique and valuable resource for studying Arab population drinking patterns because Israeli Arabs are nonimmigrants living in areas where exposure to Western lifestyles, including alcohol consumption, is prevalent. The current study was set out to examine differences in alcohol consumption in a convenience sample of 1310 Jewish and Arab students from Israeli universities and colleges and to explore alcohol expectancies as potential mediators of ethno-religious differences.Design. Logistic regressions were used to produce odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals to test differences between Jewish and Arab students on binary outcomes (lifetime, last month, and heavy drinking). Mediation of ethno-religious differences by alcohol expectancies was tested with bootstrapping procedures.Results. Results show that while Israeli Arab students tend to be more likely to abstain from alcohol than Israeli Jewish students, among current drinkers, Israeli Arab students are at a particular high risk of heavy drinking. Results also show that this is partly mediated by the expectancy that alcohol only influences the drinker at high levels of intake.Conclusion. The current study confirms distinct Arab drinking patterns found in previous studies. The present study is the first demonstration that drinking expectations mediate ethno-religious differences in heavy drinking among Israeli Arabs and Jews. This work contributes to the understanding of ethno-religious group differences in harmful drinking, potentially informing future etiologic research and public health interventions aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-610
Number of pages17
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2 Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 © 2014 Taylor & Francis.


  • Arab and Jewish Israeli populations
  • alcohol expectancies
  • alcohol use
  • ethno-religious groups
  • university students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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