Carr, S., Lindemann, C., Kraus, L., Rehm, J., Schulte, B., Manthey, J.Alcohol consumption levels and health care utilization in Germany
Sucht, 68(3), 151-160. https://doi.org/10.1024/0939-5911/a000767
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Aims: Due to large inconsistencies in previous studies, it remains unclear how alcohol use is related to health care utilization. The aim of this study was to examine associations between alcohol drinking status with utilization of outpatient and inpatient health care services in Germany.
Methodology: Survey data of the GEDA 2014/2015-EHIS study with n = 23,561 German adults were analyzed (response rate: 27 %). Respondents were categorized as lifetime abstainers, former drinkers, and non-weekly drinkers, as well as weekly low-risk drinkers and risky drinkers. Outpatient services included GP, specialist, and hospital visits; inpatient services included hospital overnight stays in the last 12 months. For both settings, binary logistic regression models were applied, adjusted for possible confounders.
Results: For specialist visits, elevated odds were found among former drinkers (odds ratio (OR) = 1.93, 95 % confidence interval (95 % CI) = 1.50-2.49), non-weekly drinkers (OR = 1.24, 95 % CI = 1.05-1.47), weekly low-risk drinkers (OR = 1.39, 95 % CI = 1.17-1.67), and risky drinkers (OR = 1.28, 95 % CI = 1.04-1.57) compared to lifetime abstainers. In contrast, lower odds for inpatient service use were found among non-weekly drinkers (OR = 0.76, 95 % CI = 0.62-0.93), low-risk drinkers (OR = 0.66, 95 % CI = 0.53-0.81), and risky drinkers (OR = 0.65, 95 % CI = 0.51-0.84). No differences were observed for GP and outpatient hospital visits.
Conclusions: While the increased odds of consulting a specialist are consistent with higher health care needs among former and current drinkers, the lower use of inpatient care among current drinkers is contrary to known health risks associated with alcohol consumption and evidence from hospitalized populations. The findings also highlight the need to differentiate between lifetime abstainers and former drinkers in their use of health services.