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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2014 Apr;38(4):1094-9. doi: 10.1111/acer.12347. Epub 2014 Jan 24.

Differences in risk of injury in the U.S. general population by injury treatment type: data from the 1995 to 2010 national alcohol surveys.

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Alcohol Research Group, Emeryville, California.



While emergency room (ER) studies have documented a strong association of alcohol with injury, these studies are not necessarily representative of the general population. To evaluate comparative risk of injury from drinking for those treated in the ER with non-ER-treated injuries (those treated elsewhere or those not treated), data on alcohol and injury are analyzed in the U.S. general population by type of injury treatment.


Relative risk (RR) of injury from drinking within 6 hours prior to the event was analyzed using case-crossover analysis based on respondents' usual frequency of drinking in 4 (1995 to 2010) National Alcohol Surveys (n = 4,819).


RR was 1.01 for the total injured and significantly elevated for ER-treated injured (1.46), but not for those treated elsewhere (0.75) and those not treated (1.02). RR was significantly elevated for those aged 18 to 30 years (1.45; 1.14, 1.85), Blacks (1.54; 1.11, 2.14) and Hispanics (1.98; 1.51, 2.59), those positive on the Rapid Alcohol Problems Screen (RAPS4) as a measure of alcohol dependence (2.41; 1.86, 3.11), and for motor vehicle injuries (2.61; 1.49, 4.58) or cutting/piercing injuries (2.04, 1.10, 3.81). For those reporting ER-treated injuries, significant effect modification was found for those aged 18 to 30 years (RR = 2.29), Blacks (RR = 2.59) and Hispanics (RR = 2.68), high risk-taking (RR = 1.71), positive RAPS4 (RR = 3.69), and for motor vehicle (RR = 3.79) and cutting/piercing injuries (RR = 2.60).


Data suggest alcohol plays a larger role in injuries for which ER treatment is sought than for other injuries, and estimates for injury from drinking derived from ER studies may be elevated. Future general population studies should take into account intensity of exposure to alcohol prior to injury, potential recall bias (by eliciting data on the proximity of injury to time of the respondent interview) and severity of injury, for improving estimates of the attributable burden of alcohol to injury in society.


Drinking; General Population; Injury; Injury Treatment Type

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