Changes in alcohol-related hospital visits during COVID-19 in New York City

Jonathan Schimmel, Carmen Vargas-Torres, Nicholas Genes, Marc A. Probst, Alex F. Manini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background and Aims: Increased alcohol consumption has been proposed as a potential consequence of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. There has been little scrutiny of alcohol use behaviors resulting in hospital visits, which is essential to guide pandemic public policy. We aimed to determine whether COVID-19 peak restrictions were associated with increased hospital visits for alcohol use or withdrawal. Secondary objectives were to describe differences based on age, sex and race, and to examine alcohol-related complication incidence. Design: Multi-center, retrospective, pre–post study. Setting: New York City health system with five participating hospitals. Participants: Adult emergency department encounters for alcohol use, alcoholic gastritis or pancreatitis or hepatitis, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, withdrawal seizure or delirium tremens. Measurements: Age, sex, race, site and encounter diagnosis. Encounters were compared between 2019 and 2020 for 1 March to 31 May. Findings: There were 2790 alcohol-related visits during the 2019 study period and 1793 in 2020, with a decrease in total hospital visits. Of 4583 alcohol-related visits, median age was 47 years, with 22.3% females. In 2020 there was an increase in percentage of visits for alcohol withdrawal [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.34, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.07–1.67] and withdrawal with complications (aOR = 1.40, 95% CI = 1.14–1.72), and a decline in percentage of hospital visits for alcohol use (aOR = 0.70, 95% CI = 0.59–0.85) and use with complications (aOR = 0.71, 95% CI = 0.58–0.88). It is unknown whether use visit changes mirror declines in other chief complaints. The age groups 18–29 and 60–69 years were associated with increased visits for use and decreased visits for withdrawal, as were non-white race groups. Sex was not associated with alcohol-related visit changes despite male predominance. Conclusions: In New York City during the initial COVID-19 peak (1 March to 31 May 2020), hospital visits for alcohol withdrawal increased while those for alcohol use decreased.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3525-3530
Number of pages6
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Alcohol
  • alcohol use disorder
  • alcohol withdrawal
  • alcoholic gastritis
  • alcoholic hepatitis
  • alcoholic pancreatitis
  • delirium tremens
  • quarantine


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