Sociodemographic changes in emergency department visits due to alcohol during COVID-19
Myran DT, Cantor N, Pugliese M, Hayes T, Talarico R, Kurdyak P, Qureshi D, Tanuseputro P. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2021; 226:108877. Epub 2021 Jun 30. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108877
Introduction — Little detailed sociodemographic information is available about how alcohol use and associated health care visits have changed during COVID-19. Therefore, we assessed how rates of emergency department (ED) visits due to alcohol have changed during COVID-19 by age and sex and for individuals living in urban and rural settings and low and high-income neighborhoods.
Methods — Our cohort included 13,660,516 unique Ontario residents between the ages of 10−105. We compared rates and characteristics of ED visits due to alcohol, identified using ICD-10 codes, from March 11-August 31 2020 to the same period in the prior 3 years. We used negative binomial regressions to examine to examine changes is visits during COVID-19 after accounting for temporal and seasonal trends.
Results — During COVID-19, the average monthly rate of ED visits due to alcohol decreased by 17.2 % (95 % CI -22.7, -11.3) from 50.5–40.9 visits per 100,000 individuals. In contrast, the proportion of all-cause ED visits due to alcohol increased by 11.4 % (95 % CI 7.7, 15.3) from 15.0 visits to 16.3 visits per 1000 all cause ED visits. Changes in ED visits due to alcohol were similar for men in women. Decreases in visits were larger for younger adults compared to older adults and pre-COVID-19 disparities in rates of ED visits due to alcohol between urban and rural settings and low and high-income neighborhoods widened. ED visits related to harms from acute intoxication showed the largest declines during COVID-19, particularly in younger adults and urban and high-income neighborhoods.
Conclusion — ED visits due to alcohol decreased during the first six months of COVID-19, but to a lesser extent than decreases in all-cause ED visits. Our data suggest a widening of geographic and income-based disparities in alcohol harms in Ontario during COVID-19 which may require immediate and long-term interventions to mitigate.
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