The first research to analyze alcohol intake by brand and type has uncovered the biggest contenders for alcohol-related emergency room visits. Read closely: your favorite beer may be on the list.
The pilot study was conducted on Friday and Saturday nights in an East Baltimore ER department between April 2010 and June 2011. The researchers are from The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
In total, 105 patients admitted drinking alcohol within the 6 hours before reporting to the hospital. Of these, 69% were male and 69% were African American, reflecting, the researchers say, the demographic profile of the ER department's neighborhood.
Five beer brands in particular were most attributed to patients landing in the ER: Budweiser, Bud Ice, Bud Light, Colt 45 and Steel Reserve.
Impact Databank, a firm that tracks the US alcohol market, helped the researchers compare the ER patients' alcohol use with the availability of alcoholic beverages on the market.
Weekend ER visits due to alcohol were mostly beer-related in the study, malt liquor in particular.
They found that the proportions of distilled spirits consumed among the patients - specifically vodka, gin, brandy and cognac - were higher than the market shares for the beverages in the US.
The amount of beer consumed by the ER patients was lower than its proportion on the national market, but male patients reported drinking higher quantities of beer or malt liquors.
Additionally, four malt liquors accounted for 46% of the beer consumed by the people presenting to ER, but these same four beverages account for only 2.4% of beer consumption in the general market. They were Bud Ice, Colt 45, King Cobra and Steel Reserve.
Lead study author David Jernigan says:
"Understanding the relationship between alcohol brands and their connection to injury may help guide policy makers in considering taxation and physical availability of different types of alcohol, given the harms associated with them."
Since the study was conducted at an emergency ward in one particular area, the authors say that the next step is to do this type of research in more depth with "a larger sample of emergency department admissions for injury, across multiple cities and hospitals."A fact sheet on alcohol use and health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that 80,000 deaths every year in the US are caused by excessive alcohol use. Additionally, in 2006 alone, the economic cost of drinking too much alcohol was an estimated $224 billion.
Wider research findings on alcohol harm could lead to alcohol content labeling on malt liquor bottles. Also, as the authors suggest, beer taxes based on alcohol content are a possibility.
A February 2013 study from Canada says that raising alcohol prices saves lives. It cites a 10% rise in the average price of alcoholic drinks being linked to 32% fewer alcohol-attributed deaths.