Four beers that make up 2.4% of overall consumption accounted for 46% of consumption prior to E.R. visits


August 15, 2013
Brain & Behavior, Health

Five beer brands – Budweiser, Steel Reserve, Colt 45, Bud Ice and Bud Light – were consumed in the highest quantities by emergency room patients, according to a new pilot study from researchers at The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Three of these are “malt liquors” with higher alcohol content than regular beer.

The pilot study, published by Substance Use and Misuse, is the first study of its kind to assess alcohol consumption by brand and type from patients reporting to the emergency department with injury.

“Recent studies reveal that nearly a third of injury visits to Level I trauma centers were alcohol-related and frequently a result of heavy drinking,” said lead study author David Jernigan, PhD, CAMY director. “Understanding the relationship between alcohol brands and their connection to injury may help guide policy makers in considering taxation and physical availability of different types of alcohol given the harms associated with them.”

The study was conducted in an urban medical center at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Emergency Department in East Baltimore on Friday and Saturday nights between April 2010 and June 2011. Of the 105 respondents who admitted to drinking alcohol before their injury, 73 (69%) were male, and 72 (69%) were African American, reflecting the demographic profile of the neighborhood in which the emergency department is located.

The research team also tracked the ER patients’ consumption of alcohol by type and compared it to national market share data from Impact Databank, a market research firm that tracks the U.S. market for alcoholic beverages by type and brand. The study found that the proportion of distilled spirits consumed by the ER sample was higher than the market share for distilled spirits in the U.S. More specifically, vodka, gin and brandy/cognac were over-represented compared to their market share in the national distilled spirits market. The same was true for ‘ready-to-drink’ beverages (RTDs). Women in the ER sample were more likely to report consuming higher quantities of RTDs.

Although beer was consumed at a lower proportion in the ER sample compared to the proportion of its consumption in the national market share for beer, men in the ER sample were more likely to report consuming higher quantities of beer or malt liquors, which has higher alcohol content than regular beer.

Four malt liquors – Steel Reserve, Colt 45, Bud Ice and King Cobra – accounted for almost 50 percent (46%) of the beer consumed by the sample. Yet these four beverages accounted for only 2.4 percent of beer consumption in the general population.

The next step, according to study authors, would be to pursue this type of research be further explored in a larger sample of emergency department admissions for injury, across multiple cities and hospitals. Policy implications of this kind of research could include requirements for clear labeling of alcohol content on malt beverage containers, including serving size labeling; limits on malt liquor availability and marketing; and graduated taxation of beer based on alcohol content to discourage consumption of higher-alcohol products.

This research was supported with funding from the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, with funding from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cooperative Agreement number 5R49CE001507, and conducted by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth monitors the marketing practices of the alcohol industry to focus attention and action on industry practices that jeopardize the health and safety of America’s youth. CAMY was founded in 2002 at Georgetown University with funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Center moved to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2008 and is currently funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information, visit www.camy.org.


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3 Responses to Four beers that make up 2.4% of overall consumption accounted for 46% of consumption prior to E.R. visits

  1. Lauren Michelle August 16, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    I would be interested in the age of these patients. Honestly, let’s consider that college age guys and girls are going to be participating in crazier activities while drinking on average than middle-aged adults. What beer will most college students buy? The cheap stuff. So while middle-aged adults are sitting around drinking blue moon, college parties normally have Budweiser, PBR, etc. I have a feeling that this has less to do with making the alcohol percentage marked better, and more to do with the age group drinking those brands. Also, 73 people is not a large sample size. Once this research has a larger net I would be more interested in the findings.

    (Since this is the internet, I’m going to clarify that I don’t think all college age students drink irresponsibly, I just got out of college myself. But rather that the percentage of college students drinking irresponsibly versus older people drinking irresponsibly and the degree of irresponsibility is quite different. Especially in America where drinking at a young age is illegal and where we have cars before drinking. I mean, come on. If you learn your alcohol limits before being allowed to climb behind a wheel, DWI convictions are going to decrease.)

  2. Nick August 16, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    The problem is that the media sends mixed messages about alcohol consumption. Every day, we hear about another study that alcohol is good for you in moderation. How is that defined? Some people think nothing of drinking 3 or 4 beers or glasses of wine every night and don’t feel “drunk”. A steep increase in taxes would help reduce consumption overall but good luck with that, the alcohol industry has very deep pockets and a choke hold on both parties-most states have not raised their alcohol taxes since the 1970s and the US government has not done so since 1991.

  3. Lee August 15, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    Well done study, now find which beer brands target blacks since blacks represented the largest part of sample population. Metrics like advertisements featuring black people, music popular with black population, etc.

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