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UNBC researchers find excessive birthday drinking leads to hospitalization

During the week in which Ontarians turned 19 they had an increase in alcohol-related hospital admissions.

By LÉO CHARBONNEAU | SEP 10 2014

It’s not surprising that young people may wish to mark important birthdays with a drink or two, but excessive birthday celebrations are putting some of them in the hospital, new research has found.

Led by University of Northern British Columbia associate professor of psychiatry Russ Callaghan, the researchers analyzed records from all hospital admissions in Ontario over a five-year period involving people aged 12 to 30 years. They discovered that during the week in which Ontarians turned 19 – the legal drinking age – they had an increase in alcohol-related hospital admissions of 114 percent for men and 164 percent for women. In other words, young Ontarians had more than double the risk of alcohol-related hospital admissions in the week of their 19th birthday than they did the rest of the year. The research was recently published in the journal Addiction.

The study revealed similar but less extreme birthday-week spikes at other ages, starting as early as 16 years for boys and 14 years for girls. Dr. Callaghan says this type of research can help policy makers develop event-specific strategies to reduce hazardous drinking.

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