Research to examine impacts of social factors on substance use

Hongying (Daisy) Dai, PhD

Hongying (Daisy) Dai, PhD

Diverse racial and ethnic groups in the United States face varied risk factors associated with substance use, but long-term substance use patterns remain understudied among African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians.

Thanks to new funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health, UNMC College of Public Health researchers will investigate the nature and mechanisms of racism and discrimination on racial and ethnic disparities in substance use — including alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cannabis and other drugs.

In a groundbreaking effort, researchers will longitudinally assess a nationally representative sample of about 9,000 U.S. adults on a biweekly basis. The study will integrate individual-level data with geocoded state-level information on hate crime incidence, statutory provisions and other relevant public health or economic contexts.

“This new funding is a natural progression of our years of work seeking to comprehend the communities most affected by drug abuse,” said Hongying (Daisy) Dai, PhD, associate dean of research at the college and principal investigator of the study. “These communities often lack the resources to address the associated health implications.

“The findings from this large-scale study will provide timely evidence to guide public health officials in mitigating the addiction crisis and safeguarding vulnerable populations.”

Dr. Dai will collaborate with researchers at UNMC and the University of Southern California to illuminate the relationship between substance use and multiple public health factors — such as economic insecurity, housing instability and employment volatility — and behavioral factors, such as resilience and coping strategies.

The research team welcomes students and faculty to join the research interest group for collaborative publications. Those interested can contact Wendi Jensen to learn more.


  1. Alena Balasanova says:

    Amazing effort in an incredibly underresearched arena- can’t wait to see what we learn!

    Also very much appreciate the use of nonstigmatizing clinically accurate terminology in this article (substance “use” – not abuse!) thank you for continuing efforts to reduce the deadly stigma of substance use and addiction!

  2. Karsten Bartels says:

    Terrific work, Daisy and Team!

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