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Alcohol-Attributable Morbidity and Resulting Health Care Costs in Canada in 2002: Recommendations for Policy and Prevention

Benjamin Taylor, Jürgen Rehm, Jayadeep Patra, Svetlana Popova, Dolly Baliunas

Objective: Alcohol is one of the most important risk factors for burden of disease, particularly in high-income countries such as Canada. The purpose of this article was to estimate the number of hospitalizations, hospital days, and the resulting costs attributable to alcohol for Canada in 2002. Method: Exposure distribution was taken from the Canadian Addiction Survey and corrected for per capita consumption from production and sales. For chronic disease, risk relations were taken from the published literature and combined with exposure to calculate age- and gender-specific alcohol-attributable fractions. For injury, alcohol-attributable fractions were taken directly from available statistics. Data on the most responsible diagnosis, length of stay for hospitalizations, and costs were obtained from the national Canadian databases. Results: For Canada in 2002, there were 195,970 alcohol-related diagnoses among acute care hospitalizations, 2,058 alcohol-attributable psychiatric hospitalizations, and 183,589 alcohol-attributable admissions to specialized treatment centers. These accounted for 1,246,945 hospital days in acute care facilities, 54,114 hospital days in psychiatric hospitals, and 3,018,688 hospital days in specialized treatment centers (inpatient and outpatient). The main causes of alcohol-attributable morbidity were neuropsychiatric conditions, cardiovascular disease, and unintentional injuries. In total, Can. $2.29 billion were spent on alcohol-related health care. Conclusions: Alcohol poses a heavy burden of disease as well as a financial strain on Canadian society. However, there are evidence-based effective and cost-effective policy and legislative interventions as well as measures to better enforce these laws. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs 68: 36-47, 2007)