Economic Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

An article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine presents some stark numbers about the costs borne by the U.S. economy due to drinking. The study looked at drinking in the following context:

“Excessive alcohol consumption was defined as follows: binge drinking (≥4 drinks per occasion for a woman, and ≥5 drinks per occasion for a man); heavy drinking (>1 drink per day on average for a woman, and >2 drinks per day on average for a man); any alcohol consumption by youth aged <21 years; and any alcohol consumption by pregnant women. Depending on the data source, these drinking patterns were generally ascertained for the past 30 days. This definition is consistent with CDC and NIAAA standards used to identify harmful patterns of alcohol consumption. Because most excessive drinkers are not alcohol dependent and the diagnoses of alcohol dependence/alcohol abuse generally involves a history of excessive drinking over an extended period of time, these diagnoses were considered an outcome of excessive drinking and not the primary basis for assessing economic costs. However, a history of alcohol dependence or abuse was used as a specific indicator of excessive drinking in some analyses (e.g., productivity losses based on lost earnings).”

The study looked at health-care costs, lost productivity, and such things as crime, criminal justice system costs and auto accidents, along with several others.

The conclusion: “The estimated total economic cost of excessive drinking was $223.5 billion in 2006. On a per capita basis, this cost was approximately $746 for each man, woman, and child in the U.S. in 2006.17 Of the total cost, $161.3 billion (72.2%) came from lost productivity; $24.6 billion (11.0%) came from increased healthcare costs; $21.0 billion (9.4%) came from criminal justice costs; and $16.7 billion (7.5%) came from other effects (Table 1). The cost associated with binge drinking was $170.7 billion, underage drinking $27.0 billion, drinking during pregnancy $5.2 billion, and crime $73.3 billion (note that these subcategories are not mutually exclusive and may overlap).”

See the whole report here.