Home US Top reasons Americans end up in the emergency room REVEALED – as mental breakdowns enter top 10

Top reasons Americans end up in the emergency room REVEALED – as mental breakdowns enter top 10

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Nearly 140 million Americans go to the emergency room each year, and 40 million of those visits are for injuries or poisonings

Nearly 140 million Americans go to the emergency room each year for reasons ranging from broken bones to common coughs.

Hospital emergency room visits have been steadily increasing for decades, a trend that reflects an aging population with more pressing needs for care and an increasingly steep decline in the number of Americans receiving preventive care to stave off disease.

Although it’s the go-to place for an urgent health problem, millions of people go for non-urgent problems, such as mild headaches or mild burns, which overcrowds waiting rooms, overwhelms overworked staff and ultimately delays access to treatment for people for more urgent needs.

And relying on emergency rooms costs a lot of money, both for people and for medical institutions, which are required by law to stabilize a patient who walks in regardless of their ability to pay.

An analysis by the CDC, the 2021 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, found the top 10 reasons people visit emergency rooms each year — with one condition rising above the rest.

Below, DailyMail.com breaks down the most common reasons people seek care in emergency departments.

Nearly 140 million Americans go to the emergency room each year, and 40 million of those visits are for injuries or poisonings

Nearly 140 million Americans go to the emergency room each year, and 40 million of those visits are for injuries or poisonings

Abdominal and abdominal pain

Abdominal pain is the most common reason for emergency department (ED) visits, accounting for more than 12.4 million per year.

It is also the leading reason for children age 15 and under to go to the ED, with 1.3 million visits annually.

It was the top complaint for visits among men and women between the ages of 15 and 64, with 9.4 million annual visits, and accounted for the second most visits among men and women 65 and over, with 1.8 million visits annually.

Abdominal pain can be caused by benign conditions such as constipation or norovirus, but can be serious and require emergency attention in some cases.

Appendicitis (an infected appendix) or a blocked bowel – which can be fatal – both require emergency surgery.

Chest pain

Chest pain can indicate a life-threatening emergency, such as a heart attack, which is fatal about 10 percent of the time.

People complaining of chest pain make up an estimated 7.8 million of the total number of visits.

It was the second most cited cause for men and women between 15 and 64 years old, with an estimated total of 6 million visits to the ED.

The causes of chest pain can range from panic attacks to heart attacks to a blood clot in the lungs.

Typically, if these chest pains are accompanied by dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, irregular heartbeat and/or sweating, a trip to the hospital is a wise idea.

Shortness of breath

The third most common reason for hospital visits was shortness of breath, with an estimated 5.9 million.

Heart and lung problems were the leading causes of shortness of breath. This included heart attacks, asthma, low blood pressure, pneumonia and panic attacks.

The complaint ranked third for reasons men aged 15 to 64 went to the emergency room and fourth most for women in the same age group – totaling more than 3.3 million visits.

The symptom was not ranked among people in younger age groups.


With 4.6 million people complaining of a cough, this ailment came in fourth place among the main reasons for a hospital visit.

The flu and colds are the most common causes of a bad cough, but it can also be associated with more serious problems, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which affects about 16 million American adults.

A cough was responsible for 2.4 million visits to hospital by men and women under the age of 15.

It was the eighth most cited reason for men and women aged 15 to 64, with an estimated 1.9 million visits. However, it was not among the biggest complaints for adults 65 and up.


The fifth most common medical problem was fever, which, if untreated, can cause organ failure and death.

A body temperature of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a fever, although the risk of organ failure or brain damage increases dramatically when the fever exceeds 104 degrees.

It can be caused by a wide variety of viral and bacterial infections, including influenza and tuberculosis.

Fever was only a common reason for emergency visits in men and women under 15, accounting for more than 3.4 million visits.

While a fever can be treated with an anti-inflammatory drug like Advil, it often accompanies other conditions that require more specialized care, such as a course of antibiotics or an antiviral medication.


In sixth place came headaches, which accounted for 3.9 million hospital trips a year.

The causes are countless, from dehydration and stress to jaw and muscle problems and problems with the eyes.

It was the third most common cause for women aged 15 to 64 and the seventh most for men in the same age group, with an estimated 2.9 million visits annually.

Meanwhile, it ranked only eighth among women 65 and older, with about 384,000 visits annually. There was not a highly cited reason among males and females under 15 years of age.

When the headache becomes severe, it can be considered a migraine, which, in addition to a throbbing, debilitating headache, can cause nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to sound and light and vision problems.

About 47 million Americans have migraine disorder.

General aches and pains

Pain in an unspecified location on the body accounted for the seventh highest reason for a trip to the emergency room, accounting for 3.4 million visits annually.

This pain can be anywhere on the body, including the skeletal, muscular, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, urinary or reproductive systems.

For women aged 15 to 64, this was the seventh most common reason for visits and the fourth most for men in that age group.

In total, 15- to 65-year-olds accounted for about 2.7 million of the visits, while seniors over 65 accounted for about 246,000.

Back pain

Back pain was the eighth most common reason for visiting the ED, with an estimated 3 million visits annually.

Back pain is an umbrella term that includes muscle pain, shooting or stabbing pain, or a burning sensation.

For men and women between the ages of 15 and 64, back symptoms were the sixth most common cause, with an estimated 2.2 million visits annually.

For women aged 65 and over, back symptoms ranked fifth and for men aged 65 and over in sixth place.


Vomiting was responsible for the ninth highest trips to the hospital, with 2.8 million visits annually.

Causes may include pregnancy, food poisoning, a gastrointestinal infection, a reaction to medication, or overeating.

It was only one top cited complaint – fourth place – for people under the age of 15, accounting for more than 1.2 million visits.

Mental crises

In 10th place, mental health problems accounted for 2.5 million hospital visits per year.

They may include suicidality, hallucinations, restlessness, delusions, panic attacks, and persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.

Symptoms and problems related to mental and psychological disorders were only prevalent among men between the ages of 15 and 64, with an estimated total of 993,000 visits, the fifth most common cause in this age group.

Emergency room visits for mental health problems are becoming more common, especially among children, teenagers, and young adults.

Lack of mental health treatment options for children means that many in crisis have to wait weeks or months for long-term mental health care.

Other sources have placed the number of emergency room visits due to mental health problems much higher, suggesting that the CDC’s estimate may be an undercount.

A 2023 report in JAMA reported that pediatric mental health visits increased from 4.8 million in 2011 to 7.5 million in 2020, an eight percent annual increase.

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