Sobriety and alcohol use among rural alaska native elders

Monica C. Skewes, Jordan P. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background. Although notable health disparities related to alcohol use persist among Alaska Native people living in rural communities, there is a paucity of research examining drinking behaviour in particular segments of this population, including elders. One explanation for this is the distrust of behavioural health research in general and alcohol research in particular following the legacy of the Barrow Alcohol Study, still regarded as a notable example of ethics violations in cross-cultural research. Objective. The present study reports findings from one of the first research studies asking directly about alcohol abuse among rural Alaska Natives (AN) since the study in Barrow took place in 1979. Design. We report findings regarding self-reported alcohol use included in an elder needs assessment conducted with 134 Alaska Native elders from 5 rural villages off the road system in Alaska. Data were collected in partnership between academic researchers and community members in accordance with the principles of Community-Based Participatory Research. Results. Findings showed very high rates of sobriety and low rates of alcohol use, contradicting stereotypes of widespread alcohol abuse among AN. Possible explanations and future research directions are discussed. Conclusions. This research represents one step forward in mending academic–community relationships in rural Alaska to further research on alcohol use and related health disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number30476
JournalInternational journal of circumpolar health
StatePublished - Feb 4 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Monica C. Skewes and Jordan P. Lewis.


  • Alaska native health
  • Alcohol research
  • CBPR
  • Elders
  • Rural alaska


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