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Research Summary

Alcohol and the Risk of Injury

Numerous reports have documented the association between alcohol consumption and the risk of injury. To examine whether specific patterns of consumption affect this risk, researchers assessed 8736 patients admitted to an emergency department in Switzerland (5077 with an injury). Measures included usual volume of drinking, past-month heavy episodic drinking (>=5 drinks on at least one occasion for men, >=4 for women), and recent drinking (in the 24 hours before the emergency-department visit).

  • Heavy episodic drinking and recent drinking increased the risk of injury. And as the volume of usual and recent drinking increased, the risk of injury increased.
  • Risk was highest in patients who usually drank moderately* and reported both past-month and recent heavy episodic drinking (odds ratios 6.4 for men and 7.4 for women, compared with abstainers).
  • Past-month heavy episodic drinking tended to confer a higher risk in patients who usually drank moderately than in patients who usually drank heavily.
  • Almost half of the alcohol-attributable injuries among women were suffered by those who usually drank moderately, did not have past-month heavy episodic drinking, and drank >0 but <4 drinks in the 24 hours before their emergency-department visit.


This study indicates that patterns of drinking, particularly heavy episodic drinking, influence the risk of injury. Interventions to reduce alcohol-related injury should focus on preventing heavy episodic drinking among both moderate and heavy drinkers.

Joseph Conigliaro, MD, MPH
*<14 drinks per week for men, <7 for women


Gmel G, Bissery A, Gammeter R, et al. Alcohol-attributable injuries in admissions to a Swiss emergency room: an analysis of the link between volume of drinking, drinking patterns and preattendence drinking. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2006;30(3):501–509.