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Those hospitalized with alcohol-related injuries more likely to die in next 12 months

Researchers examined data on all 10 million emergency department visits by residents of California age 10 and older from 2009 to 2012.

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Alcoholism among young people - teenager drinking beer
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By Stephen Beech via SWNS

Patients hospitalized with booze-related injuries are five times more likely to die within the next 12 months, a new study warned.

Researchers found that alcohol-involved injuries are linked to a hugely increased risk of death in the following 12 months.

Lead researcher Doctor Sidra Goldman-Mellor said: “Injuries are one of the most immediate hazards of problematic drinking behavior.

“In addition to getting injured from things like car accidents and falls, some people may get injured in fights or even engage in self-harm after they’ve been drinking.

"However, we actually know very little about what happens to people with an alcohol use disorder after they’ve had a serious injury. So we wanted to investigate the most important outcome of all: how likely they were to die.”

Dr. Goldman-Mellor and her team examined data on all 10 million emergency department visits by residents of California in the United States age 10 and older from 2009 to 2012.

Of those patients, 262,222 had a non-fatal injury and either had a diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder or were intoxicated at the time of the injury.

Most (76.9 percent) of the injuries were coded as unintentional, with an additional 13.2 percent due to assault, 7.9 percent to self-harm and 2.1 percent due to undetermined intent.

Within 12 months of their hospital visit, 13,175 of these patients had died - more than five percent - with a total mortality rate of nearly 5,205 per 100,000.

Middle-aged alcoholic with beard drinking transparent liquor from a bottle
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

The researchers determined that it is more than five times the rate for the rest of the California population, matched for age, gender, race and ethnicity, all strong determinants of mortality risk.

Dr. Goldman-Mellor, Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of California, Merced, explained that she and her colleagues were prompted to study the subject because of evidence that alcohol use - including problem drinking - has increased in recent years, especially during the pandemic.

She said they were surprised by their findings.

Dr. Goldman-Mellor said: "Injuries associated with alcohol use disorders are a public health problem in their own right, but now we know that they’re also associated with a substantially increased risk of death.

“Most people who struggle with alcohol misuse don’t get the help they need.”

The research team was not able to examine what happened to the patients after discharge, but they suspect that many were already quite sick when they initially went to the hospital, with their health declining after that.

Dr. Goldman-Mellor says A&E departments are one place in which people with alcohol problems might be able to get additional help.

She said that some can connect patients to facilities such as outpatient programs integrating substance use treatment with regular primary care for chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and liver disease.

Dr. Goldman-Mellor added: “Hopefully studies like ours can be used to increase resources for getting all such patients connected with comprehensive care, both for their substance use and general health."

The findings were published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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