Financial Toll of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Although we often hear of the damage done by alcohol abuse to the community and people in general, we seldom consider the huge financial toll of excessive drinking and problem drinking on the economy and on individuals.

According to a recent American based study, the toll of excessive drinking in the United States is about American $2 per drink (Aus $2.22). It may seem like a small figure but when you consider the amount of alcohol that is consumed, altogether it is a staggering amount and this is just the cost of the expenses caused as a result of drinking not including the cost of the drink itself.

According to the study conducted by the CDC (Centres for Disease Control), the $2 is accounted for by medical expenses and other costs to society.

The study by the CDC calculated the societal costs of binge drinking and heavy drinking, excluding what consumers actually pay at the liquor store or licenced venue.

The study also took into consideration lost productivity at work, property damage from car crashes, expenditures for liver cirrhosis and other alcohol-associated medical problems as well as the money spent on incarceration of drunk drivers and criminals using alcohol. Although the study relates to figures in the U.S it can be compared to the cost of drinking in Oz. The following excerpt from an article on New York Daily News website I found quite informative,

alg-bar-110110-jpgThe CDC estimated excessive drinking cost society nearly $224 billion in 2006, the most recent year for which all necessary statistics were available. That worked out to about $1.90 per drink, 80 cents of which was spent by federal, state or local governments, the researchers estimated. The rest came from drinkers, their families, private health insurers, employers, crime victims and others.

Most of that was related to binge drinking, in which four or five alcoholic beverages are consumed on one occasion.

“Binge drinking results in binge spending,” said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.

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The study’s officials also noted a very important point which drinkers should keep in mind – drinking in moderation can have health benefits whereas none have been associated with excessive alcohol consumption.

Drinkers should remember that when they drink excessively the costs involved are more than those associated with the actual cost of the bottle of wine or can of beer, there are numerous indirect costs and these costs are exaggerated when drinking is done in excess. The article on explains further:

CDC officials noted that while some health benefits have been associated with, say, a glass of wine each day, there are no health benefits linked to excessive drinking. They also said the new study likely represents an underestimate of the total cost.

Smoking has been estimated to cost society about $193 billion annually. An older study estimated the cost of not exercising to be around $150 billion.

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