Published since 1884 by the Society for the Study of Addiction.
Editor-in-Chief, Robert West

Warning: Birthdays Can Be Bad for Your Health

22 July 2014

 New research has found that birthday-related drinking is associated with upsurges in hospital admissions among young people.  This study of drinking behaviour in Ontario, Canada is published online today in the scientific journal Addiction.

Researchers, led by University of Northern British Columbia Associate Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Russ Callaghan, analysed records from all hospital admissions in Ontario over a five-year period (2002-07) involving people aged 12 to 30 years.  They discovered that during the week in which Ontarians turned 19 – the legal drinking age – they produced an increase in hospital admissions of 114% for men and 164% for women.  In other words, young Ontarians had more than double the alcohol-related hospital admissions in the week of their 19th birthday as they did the rest of the year.

Callaghan says this type of research can help policy makers develop event-specific strategies to reduce hazardous drinking. 

“This study shows a clear need for efforts to prevent alcohol misuse at one’s own birthday celebrations – not just when turning 19 but both before and after that milestone year,” he said.

The study revealed similar but less extreme birthday-week spikes at other ages, starting as early as 16 years for boys and 14 years for girls.  The largest spikes occurred on the weeks of people’s 19th, 20th, 21st, 22cd and 30th birthdays.


For editors:

Callaghan R, Sanches M, Gatley J, Liu L-M, and Cunningham J. (2014). Hazardous birthday drinking among young people: Population-based impacts on emergency department and inpatient hospital admissions.  Addiction, 109: doi: 10.1111/add.12626

This paper is free to download for one month after publication from the Wiley Online Library or contact Jean O’Reilly, Editorial Manager, Addiction,, tel +44 (0)20 7848 0853.

Addiction ( is a monthly international scientific journal publishing peer-reviewed research reports on alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco, and gambling as well as editorials and other debate pieces. Owned by the Society for the Study of Addiction, it has been in continuous publication since 1884. Addiction is the number one journal in the 2013 ISI Journal Citation Reports Ranking in the Substance Abuse Category (Social Science Edition).  Membership to the Society for the Study of Addiction ( is £85 and includes an annual subscription to Addiction.

Addiction’s key findings webpage lists the key scientific advances reported in each monthly issue, article by article, in bite-sized chunks.  To access this free service, visit

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Contact Information

Peter James

Communications Officer

250-960-5420   |


Dr. Russ Callaghan

Associate Professor of Psychiatry

250-960-5668   |