Hospitalization Of Underage Drinkers Common And Costly
February 16, 2012

Hospitalization Of Underage Drinkers Common And Costly

A recent Mayo Clinic study has found that hospitalization for underage drinking is common in the US, with costs reaching upwards of $755 million annually, researchers reported in the online edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

They also found geographic and demographic differences in the incidence of hospital admissions related to use of alcohol.

Of the 40,000 adolescents between ages 15 and 20 who were hospitalized in 2008, the most recent data available, 79 percent were drunk when they arrived at the hospital. Alcohol abuse and  emotional problems related to it were among the most common diagnoses.

The researchers found that 18 out of every 10,000 young males and 12 of every 10,000 young females were hospitalized after drinking alcohol in the year studied. In all, 700,000 adolescents in the 15-20 age group were hospitalized for various reasons in 2008.

“When teenagers drink, they tend to drink excessively, leading to many destructive consequences including motor vehicle accidents, injuries, homicides and suicides,” said study coauthor Terry Schneekloth, MD, a Mayo Clinic addiction expert and psychiatrist.

“Alcohol use necessitating acute-care hospitalization represents one of the most serious consequences of underage drinking,” said Schneekloth. “Harmful alcohol use in adolescence is a harbinger of alcohol abuse in adulthood.”

Schneekloth and colleagues found the average age for alcohol-related hospital discharges was 18, 61 percent of which were male. Nearly 25 percent of hospitalization as a result of alcohol-use included some type of injury, most commonly from traffic accidents, assaults and altercations.

The Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) data from 2008 provided the statistics for the study. NIS is the largest all-payer inpatient care database in the US. The data is a 20 percent stratified sample of all US hospitals, accounting for 90 percent of all discharges in the country. To calculate the incidence rate of hospitalizations, researchers also took population denominator data from the US Census Bureau for 2008.

Hospitalization incidence for alcohol-use in adolescents was highest in the Northeast and Midwest and lowest in the South. In general, black Americans had lower hospitalization rates than whites, and Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders had the lowest overall rates. Native Americans had the highest rates.

According to the study data, a total of 107 of adolescents hospitalized for alcohol-use in 2008 died (0.27 percent). The average age was 18.6 years old and 82 percent were male.

These findings may help target substance abuse prevention efforts toward geographic and demographic groups at greatest risk.


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