There has been a steady rise in the number of emergency room visits in the United States as a result of drinking alcohol, a new study suggests.
While most Americans drink in moderation, there has been a 61% increase in emergency room trips from 2006 to 2014, though researchers remain uncertain why, NPR reports.
The jump in numbers gives cause for worry, but is also mysterious, according to Aaron White, one of the study authors, partly because the same nine0year period revealed only a 2% increase in per capita alcohol consumption overall, and an 8% rise in emergency room visits for any possible reason.
White and other researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism have yet to understand why there are so many alcohol-related emergency room trips now.
The lowest hanging fruit in terms of hypotheses is that there must be an increase in risky drinking in some people. 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.
The findings are based in an analysis of nationally representative data that contains information on some 30 million visits to American hospital ERs yearly, collected from 945 hospitals in 33 states and Washington, D.C.
In addition, the study found a higher rate of increase in ER visits related to alcohol among women patients, who are catching up to men in overall drinking, binge drinking, drunk driving and deaths from liver cirrhosis caused by alcoholism. The gender divide grew even smaller when the researchers examined just visits to the ER caused by chronic alcohol use, meaning drinking that leads to problems like cirrhosis, pancreatitis, withdrawal and so on.
Excess drinking costs around $249 billion annually, a 2010 study stated. Between 2006 and 2010, close to 88,129 deaths were caused by too much alcohol consumption, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
White and his colleagues estimate this to represent nearly 10% of deaths among adults of working age.
The study was published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.