ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Hospitalization for underage drinking is common in the United States, and it comes with a price tag -- the estimated total cost for these hospitalizations is about $755 million per year, a Mayo Clinic study has found. Researchers also found geographic and demographic differences in the incidence of alcohol-related hospital admissions. The findings were published online today in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Of the roughly 40,000 youth ages 15 to 20 hospitalized in 2008, the most recent data available, 79 percent were drunk when they arrived at the hospital, researchers say. Alcohol abuse and addiction and drinking-related emotional problems were among the diagnoses.
Among all U.S. teens, roughly 18 of every 10,000 adolescent males and 12 of every 10,000 females were hospitalized after consuming alcohol in the year studied. In all, 700,000 young people in that age group were hospitalized for various reasons, including non-alcohol-related conditions, in 2008.
"When teenagers drink, they tend to drink excessively, leading to many destructive consequences including motor vehicle accidents, injuries, homicides and suicides," says researcher Terry Schneekloth, M.D., a Mayo Clinic addiction expert and psychiatrist.
Underage drinking is common in the United States: 36 percent of high-school students report having consumed alcohol at least once, although the prevalence of heavy drinking (more than five drinks in a row within the preceding two weeks) is lower (7 percent).
"Alcohol use necessitating acute-care hospitalization represents one of the most serious consequences of underage drinking," Dr. Schneekloth says. "Harmful alcohol use in adolescence is a harbinger of alcohol abuse in adulthood."
The average age of those with alcohol-related discharges was 18; 61 percent were male. Nearly a quarter of the alcohol-use disorder hospitalizations included an injury, most commonly traffi
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