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Research Summary

Injury Risk Is Higher in Countries With Riskier Drinking Patterns

To estimate the risk of nonfatal injury associated with alcohol use, researchers performed a meta-analysis of case-crossover studies conducted in 28 emergency departments in 16 countries. Of 11,536 injured subjects, 2406 (21%) had been drinking within 6 hours of injury (i.e., acute consumption). Drinking patterns for each country were determined from surveys of key informants.

  • The relative risk of injury associated with acute consumption was 5.7. It ranged from 1.1 in Canada to 35 in South Africa and was higher in countries with riskier drinking patterns.
  • Risk was lower for those who usually drank heavily (>=3 times a week and >=12 drinks on at least one occasion during the last year) than for those who drank less.


The strength of the association between drinking and injury in this study varied according to societal patterns of risky drinking. Future studies should determine whether clinical and policy interventions that make risky drinking less acceptable, especially in societies with detrimental drinking patterns, might lower the burden of disability from injury and violence.

Peter D. Friedmann, MD, MPH


Borges G, Cherpitel CJ, Orozco R, et al. Acute alcohol use and the risk of non-fatal injury in sixteen countries. Addiction. 2006;101(7):993–1002.