Mayo: Underage drinking-related hospitalization costs reach $755M yearly

Mayo Clinic researchers estimate the hospitalization costs for underage drinking in the U.S. is about $755 million each year.

Researchers found about 6 percent of all hospitalizations for young people ages 15 to 20 were related to alcohol problems. Of 700,000 hospitalizations, 40,0000 were for alcohol-related problems.

Mayo addiction expert and psychiatrist Terry Schneekloth said most of the hospitalization cost, or approximately $500 million, goes toward treatment according to a study published this week in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

"It really raises the issue of how this is being addressed in the hospital," Schneekloth said. "Are the services being provided either through the physicians [or] social work services to help these youth?"

Schneekloth said the study found the average age of alcohol-related hospitalization was 18 and 61 percent of those young people hospitalized were male.

Mayo's study also shows hospitalization is more common in the Northeast and Midwest, and lowest in the South.

"It can also have a lot to do with what is culturally acceptable, how widespread access is to alcohol, whether or not the high school or the college, university climates are tolerant of a certain degree ... of drinking," Schneekloth said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, young people ages 12 to 20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States and more than 90 percent of that is consumed in the form of binge drinking.

The CDC said young people who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21.

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