Risky Alcohol Use: The Impact on Health Service Use

Laia Miquel*, Jakob Manthey, Jurgen Rehm, Emili Vela, Montserrat Bustins, Lidia Segura, Eduard Vieta, Joan Colom, Peter Anderson, Antoni Gual

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: To examine health services use on the basis of alcohol consumption. Material and Methods: A cross-sectional study was carried out on patients visiting the Primary Health Care (PHC) settings in Catalonia during 2011 and 2012; these patients had a history of alcohol consumption. Information about outpatient visits in the PHC setting, hospitalizations, specialists' visits and emergency room visits for the year 2013 was obtained from 2 databases (the Information System for the Development of Research in PHC and the Catalan Health Surveillance System). Risky drinkers were defined as those who consumed more than 280 g per week for men or more than 170 g per week for women, or any amount of alcohol while being involved in a high risk work activity, or taking medication that significantly interferes with alcohol or when being pregnant. Binge drinkers (> 60 g in men or > 50 g in women in a short amount of time more than once a month) were also considered risky drinkers. Results: A total of 606,948 patients reported consuming alcohol (of which 10.5% were risky drinkers). Risky drinkers were more likely to be admitted to hospitals or emergency departments (range of ORs 1.08-1.18) compared to light drinkers. Male risky drinkers used fewer PHC services than male light drinkers (OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.87-0.92). In general, risky alcohol users used services more and had longer hospital stays. When stratifying by socioeconomic level of the residential area, we found that risky drinking failed significance, while current or past cigarette smoking was associated with higher healthcare use. Conclusions: Risky drinkers use more expensive services, such as hospitals and emergency rooms, but not PHC services, which may suggest that prevention strategies and alcohol interventions should also be implemented in those settings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-244
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Addiction Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Risky drinking
  • Tobacco
  • Health service use
  • Inpatient
  • Primary health care


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