Alcohol-related ED visits disproportionately increasing in women and young adults

 women holding glasses of alcohol

“We found that ED visits due to alcohol use are rapidly increasing in Ontario,” says Dr. Daniel Myran.

More Ontarians are ending up in emergency departments (ED) due to alcohol use, with the largest increases happening in women, and young adults between the ages of 25 and 29, according to a new study led by researchers at ICES, The Ottawa Hospital, the Bruyère Research Institute and the University of Ottawa.

The study published today in the CMAJ identified a total of 765,354 ED visits in Ontario due to alcohol use over a 14-year study period (2003-2016). These visits represented 1.2 per cent of all ED visits in Ontario. The number of ED visits due to alcohol increased on average by 6.7 per cent (2676 visits) per year over the study period. After adjusting for the aging and growing population, the researchers found that ED visits due to alcohol increased by 86 per cent in women (from 20.7 visits to 38.6 visits per 10,000 individuals) and 53 per cent in men (from 51.1 to 78.3 visits per 10,000 individuals). By comparison, while ED visits due to any cause also increased over the study period, the observed increase in ED visits due to alcohol was 4.4 times greater.

“We found that ED visits due to alcohol use are rapidly increasing in Ontario,” says lead author Dr. Daniel Myran, a family physician and public health and preventive medicine resident at the University of Ottawa, who is also training at The Ottawa Hospital and Bruyère Research Institute. “These increases are consistent with data showing increasing average weekly alcohol consumption in Ontario and higher rates of binge drinking during the study period, particularly in women across Canada.”

Alcohol use causes a large burden on the health of Canadians, leading to an estimated 5.8 per cent of deaths in men and 0.6 per cent of deaths in women in 2017.

During the study period, the age group that had the largest increase in alcohol-related ED visits was young adults aged 25 to 29, with a 175 per cent increase (27.2 visits per 10,000 individuals to 74.9 visits per 10,000).

“Our findings show a concerning generational effect, where youth and young adults are experiencing year-over-year increases in alcohol-related harms over the last decade and a half,” says senior author Dr. Peter Tanuseputro, adjunct scientist at ICES, researcher at the Bruyère Research Institute, physician-scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa.

Other findings include:

  • ED visits for alcohol use at age 19 years increased on average by 4.1 per cent every year.
  • Women who visited the ED due to alcohol were more likely to be under the legal drinking age of 19 years (17 per cent) compared with men (9 per cent).
  • The highest rates of alcohol-related visits were in women aged 15 to 24 and men aged 45 to 54.
  • Although individuals in the lowest neighbourhood income group had 2.4 times the rate of ED visits due to alcohol than those in the highest income group, this relation was relatively stable over the study period.

To learn more, visit OHRI's website.

women holding glasses of alcohol


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