Alcohol-related visits to ERs are on the rise

emergency roomAmericans are making more visits to hospital emergency rooms with alcohol-related causes, a new study released by the National Institutes of Health found.

“In just nine years, the number of people transported to the [emergency room] annually for medical emergencies caused or exacerbated by alcohol increased from about 3 million to 5 million,” said George F. Koob, Ph.D., Director of NIH’s National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “These findings are indicative of the detrimental effects that acute and chronic alcohol misuse have on public health, and the significant burden they place on our healthcare system.”

The study of 945 hospitals across the United States found that alcohol-related emergency room visits increased by 47 percent between 2006 and 2014 at 945 hospitals across the United States. Such increases were seen across gender, geographic region, income level and age groups, even as alcohol consumption remained stable. 

However, the study’s findings showed the demographic group with the greatest increase in hospital visits is among women, said Aaron White, a senior adviser at NIAAA who led the study.

“The biggest increase is in the rates of visits to the emergency room for alcohol-related visits is among women and among those that are in the baby boomer (segment),” he added.

Although alcohol-related emergency room visits increase with population increases, White explained, his findings also showed an increase in the share of people going to the emergency room for alcohol-related reasons.

“You’ve got more older drinkers going to the emergency room per 100,000,” he said. “That helps tell us where we need to put some resources to address prevention.” 

White said that drinking rates among women have increased over the last century and believed his findings show it “was a continuation of that.” 

One of the ramifications, White explained, include additional strains on the healthcare system.

“If every year the number of women who need medical attention increases that places an increasing burden on emergency medical services,” he added. 

Data for the study was collected through the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, a national database used to track millions of visits to emergency room across the county.

The conclusions of the study also included some limitations, according to White.

“The data are limited to age, sex and regions within the U.S. but we absolutely lack data on race and ethnicity,” White said. “It’s just enough to tell us something is happening here and it’s important.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 141.4 million people in the U.S. visit the emergency room every year. 


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