Injured people having intoxicated or alcohol use disorder have a five fold increased risk of dying in the next year, according to a new study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
“Injuries are one of the most immediate hazards of problematic drinking behaviour,” says lead researcher Sidra Goldman-Mellor, Ph.D., from the Department of Public Health at the University of California, Merced.
“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,” the author said.
THE METHOD AND FINDINGS
The researchers analysed data on all ten million emergency department visits by California residents aged 10 and older from 2009 to 2012. Of these patients, 2,62,222 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%) of these injuries were coded as unintentional, with an additional 13.2% due to assault, 7.9% to self-harm and 2.1% due to undetermined intent.
The study found that within 12 months of their hospital visit, 13,175 of these patients had died — more than 5% — with a total mortality rate of nearly 5,205 per 100,000. The researchers determined this 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.
“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,” says Goldman-Mellor. “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 suspects that many were already quite sick when they initially came to the hospital, with patients’ health declining after that.