Alcohol-Related ER Visits Increase, Particularly Among Women

By Beth Leipholtz 01/15/18

Emergency room visits for alcohol-related issues rose 61% over a nine-year period.

A motion blurred photograph of a patient on stretcher or gurney being pushed at speed through a hospital corridor by doctors & nurses to an emergency room

A new study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research indicates that between 2006 and 2014, drinking-related trips to the emergency room rose a staggering 61%. 

While the increase is a large one, it’s a bit confounding to one of the study’s authors, neuroscientist Aaron White. According to NPR, this is because the same nine-year period demonstrated only a 2% increase in per capita alcohol consumption overall and an 8% increase in overall emergency room visits. 

These statistics come from an analysis of national data highlighting information from 945 hospitals in 33 states and Washington, D.C. about the 30 million annual emergency room visits in the U.S.

White and his four co-authors are working to understand the reasoning for the increase. 

"The lowest hanging fruit in terms of hypotheses is that there must be an increase in risky drinking in some people," White told NPR. "Even though that is not showing up in increases in overall per capita consumption, it's enough to drive the increase in alcohol-related emergency department visits." 

A point of interest in this study, according to White, was the increase in alcohol-related emergency room visits among females. According to the New York Times, women are closing in on men when it comes to drinking, in addition to binge drinking, drunk driving and deaths caused by cirrhosis of the liver. 

According to Tim Slade, an associate professor at the University of New South Wales and the lead author of the study, published in BMJ Open, women should start thinking ahead about alcohol and their health. 

“Women are now drinking as much as men, particularly in recent cohorts, and we need to be thinking about what will happen to their health as they get older,” he told the New York Times

White says the gender gap grew larger when researchers studied visits related to chronic use of alcohol. In other words, visits concerning health issues such as pancreatitis, cirrhosis, withdrawal and other ongoing health problems.

One concern as a result of this study is the financial burden of such visits to the ER. As estimated $249 billion per year is spent on over-drinking, according to a 2010 study

But the financial aspect isn’t the main concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in just four years, between 2006 and 2010, nearly 88,129 deaths were reported in the U.S. as a result of excess drinking. According to White and his co-authors, this number represents about 10% of deaths in working-age adults. 

According to White, more than two-thirds of Americans older than 17 drank alcohol at least once in 2014, making the overall increase in ER visits unsurprising.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.