Survey of alcohol-related presentations to Australasian emergency departments

Diana Egerton-Warburton, Andrew Gosbell, Angela Wadsworth, Daniel M Fatovich and Drew B Richardson
Med J Aust 2014; 201 (10): 584-587. || doi: 10.5694/mja14.00344


Objective: To determine the proportion of alcohol-related presentations to emergency departments (EDs) in Australia and New Zealand, at a single time point on a weekend night shift.

Design, setting and participants: A point prevalence survey of ED patients either waiting to be seen or currently being seen conducted at 02:00 local time on 14 December 2013 in 106 EDs in Australia and New Zealand.

Main outcome measures: The number of ED presentations that were alcohol-related, defined using World Health Organization ICD-10 codes.

Results: At the 106 hospitals (92 Australia, 14 New Zealand) that provided data, 395 (14.3%; 95% CI, 13.0%–15.6%) of 2766 patients in EDs at the study time were presenting for alcohol-related reasons; 13.8% (95% CI, 12.5%–15.2%) in Australia and 17.9% (95% CI, 13.9%–22.8%) in New Zealand. The distribution was skewed left, with proportions ranging from 0 to 50% and a median of 12.5%. Nine Australian hospitals and one New Zealand hospital reported that more than a third of their ED patients had alcohol-related presentations; the Northern Territory (38.1%) and Western Australia (21.1%) reported the highest proportions of alcohol-related presentations.

Conclusions: One in seven ED presentations in Australian and New Zealand at this 02:00 snapshot were alcohol-related, with some EDs seeing more than one in three alcohol-related presentations. This confirms that alcohol-related presentations to EDs are currently underreported and makes a strong case for public health initiatives.

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  • Diana Egerton-Warburton1,2
  • Andrew Gosbell3
  • Angela Wadsworth3
  • Daniel M Fatovich4
  • Drew B Richardson5

  • 1 Monash Medical Centre Emergency Department, Monash Health, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 2 School of Clinical Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 3 Policy and Research, Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 4 University of Western Australia, Perth, WA.
  • 5 Emergency Department, Australian National University Medical School, Canberra, ACT.


We acknowledge principal funding from the Australian National Preventive Health Agency.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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