The Clinical Impact of Health Behaviors on Emergency Department Visits


  • Supported by Grant 1R13HS018601-01 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, with secondary support from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute of Mental Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Address for correspondence and reprints: Steven L. Bernstein, MD; e-mail:


Modifiable health behaviors are an important cause of visits to emergency departments (EDs). Substance use, unsafe sexual behavior, interpersonal violence, unintentional injury, and other risky behaviors account for a large proportion of ED volume, as well as up to 40% of all deaths in the United States. While emergency physicians commonly treat the illnesses and injuries caused by these behaviors, additional opportunities exist to screen, intervene, refer, and initiate treatment for patients with these health risks. This article reviews the epidemiology and clinical impact of risky health behaviors on ED visits and suggests strategies for creating a research agenda in these areas.