The number of alcohol-related emergency department visits is sharply up over the last decade, driven in part by more women abusing alcohol.
The National Institutes of Health reported that between 2006 and 2014 the number of people annually brought to the emergency room for alcohol-related problems jumped from 3 million to 5 million.
“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,” stated George F. Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health.
The rate of all alcohol-related emergency department visits increased 47 percent between 2006 and 2014, which is an average annual increase of 210,000 alcohol-related visits.
Emergency visits stemming from short-term and long-term alcohol abuse both jumped, but mostly for chronic alcohol abuse, which saw a 58 percent increase in ER visits. ER visits for acute alcohol consumption rose by 40 percent.
The Nationa Health Institute said these increases “far outpaced” changes in the number and rate of emergency department visits for any cause during the years studied via data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, the largest emergency database in the U.S.
The rise in visits has been costly. The data also showed that total annual costs of alcohol-related visits increased from $4.1 billion to $15.3 billion during this time.
Although men account for more alcohol-related emergency department visits than women, the rate of visits increased more among women than men. This increase was mostly because of a larger increase in the rate of chronic alcohol misuse-related visits for women than men, with visits from women up 6.9 percent annually versus visits from men up 4.5 percent.
Aaron White, who led the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism researchers, said men’s and women’s drinking habits are becoming more similar in the U.S.
“The larger increase in the rate of ED visits among females compared to males provides further evidence of narrowing gender gaps in alcohol use and related harms. This trend is concerning given that females appear to be more susceptible to some of the detrimental health effects of alcohol,” he stated.