Shutterstock

Four malt liquors accounted for nearly half of all alcohol-related emergency-room patients in Baltimore.

Malt liquor may not be the most popular of beers overall, but it probably won’t surprise you that the high-alcohol beverage has come out on top with drinkers who land in the E.R. According to a new pilot study in Baltimore conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins, four brands of malt liquors accounted for nearly half of the beer consumption by emergency-room patients, even though the beverage accounts for just 2.4 percent of general beer drinking in the United States.

In the small study of 105 individuals, the top five brands consumed most often were Budweiser, Steel Reserve, Colt 45, Bud Ice, and Bud Light; except for Bud Light, every other brand was significantly overrepresented in the E.R. when compared with its share of the national beer market. (Steel Reserve, Colt 45, and Bud Ice are all malt liquors; King Cobra was the fourth-place malt liquor, but it was not one of the top five overall brands.)

According to lead author David Jernigan, the idea behind the study was to see if there was any correlation between types and brands of alcohol with injury, in order to inform public health policy on the taxation and availability of products. Jernigan’s ongoing work has focused on unearthing data on alcohol brand preferences, what he calls the “missing link” in the relationship between alcohol advertising and youth drinking. He says that this study proves that this kind of data can be collected, though it’s too early to draw any concrete conclusions.

It has long been difficult to collect information on how marketing might affect the way a product is consumed, or if it increases risky behavior. In addition to the geography and distribution of marketing, packaging size also likely has something to do with the findings: malt liquor is often sold in "forties," those jumbo 40-ounce glass bottles familiar to many college-age drinkers (the standard beer-bottle size is the 12-ounce longneck).

Since this preliminary study was conducted at one hospital in a particular area of Baltimore, Jernigan notes that his findings may well be specific to the city; he and his team hope to expand the study to sample populations across multiple cities and hospitals.

Top image: NOBUHIRO ASADA /Shutterstock.com

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    Who’s Really Buying Property in San Francisco?

    A lot of software developers, according to an unprecedented new analysis.

  2. A toddler breathes from a nebulizer while sitting in a crib.
    Environment

    How Scientists Discovered What Dirty Air Does to Kids’ Health

    The landmark Children’s Health Study tracked thousands of children in California over many years—and transformed our understanding of air pollution’s harms.

  3. Environment

    No, Puerto Rico’s New Climate-Change Law Is Not a ‘Green New Deal’

    Puerto Rico just adopted legislation that commits it to generating all its power from renewable sources. Here’s what separates that from what’s going on in D.C.

  4. A photo of single-family homes along a hillside in San Marcos, California.
    Equity

    The Political Battle Over California's Suburban Dream

    State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 50 would rewrite the state’s single-family zoning codes. What's wrong with that? A lot, say opponents.

  5. a photo of a beach in Hawaii
    Transportation

    Could Hawaii Be Paradise For Hydrogen-Powered Public Transit?

    As prices drop for renewable power, some researchers hope the island state could be the ideal testbed for hydrogen fuel cells in public transportation.