The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on alcohol-related emergency department visits in the Netherlands: The ALCOVID study

F.M.F.M. Knapen, S.J.M. Laumer, F.H.M. Van Osch, D.G. Barten*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has a profound impact on society and healthcare utilisation. Some studies found that alcohol consumption increased. While declines in non-COVID emergency department (ED) visits have been observed worldwide, little is known about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the number of alcohol-related ED visits. We aimed to examine the changes in alcohol-related ED utilisation during the first year of the pandemic in the Netherlands. We assessed whether lockdowns, closure of the catering industry and alcohol bans were associated with changes in ED utilisation for alcohol-related emergencies. Methods We performed a retrospective analysis of alcohol-related ED visits in a Dutch trauma level 2 centre, comparing the pandemic year 2020 and using the year 2019 as a reference. Alcohol-related ED visits were categorised as alcohol intoxication, alcohol-related trauma or a combination of both. Results There was an absolute decline of 23.3% in alcohol-related ED visits during 2020 compared to 2019. The decline was most distinct during the second lockdown period (-60%, P <= 0.001), which included an alcohol ban. No significant differences were found in the type of alcohol-related ED visits. The proportion of alcohol-related ED visits remained similar (2.2% vs. 2%). Discussion and Conclusions Despite reports of higher alcohol consumption, we observed a reduction of alcohol-related ED visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. The decline was most distinct during the second lockdown period, which included an alcohol ban. Further prospective studies are warranted to examine this possible association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-483
Number of pages8
JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
Issue number2
Early online date21 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • COVID-19
  • emergency service hospital
  • alcohol prohibition
  • pandemic

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