Excessive Drinking Costs U.S. Economy $250 Billion a Year

Friday, October 23, 2015
(photo: Laurie Sparham, AP/Focus Features)

Experts have found another reason why binge drinking is a bad idea: it hurts the American economy.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says in a new report that binge drinking, defined as more than four drinks for a woman or five for a man, caused the U.S. economy to lose $250 billion in 2010.


Researchers Jeffrey J. Sacks, Katherine R. Gonzales, Ellen E. Bouchery, Laura E. Tomedi, and Robert D. Brewer came up with this figure after looking at the cost of lost job productivity, criminal-justice fees for alcohol-related crimes, medical bills, and other costs.


All forms of lost productivity accounted for about $179 billion of alcohol-related costs, while the cost of people showing up (or not) at work hung over cost $90 billion.


The government wound up covering about 40% of the $250 billion total. Costs related to motor-vehicle crashes amounted to $13 billion, while the cost of arresting people and court fees related to drinkers was $15 billion.


Binge drinking and its associated costs have been increasing. The costs are up 2.7% since 2006. “The increase in the costs of excessive drinking from 2006 to 2010 is concerning, particularly given the severe economic recession that occurred during these years,” Brewer, head of the CDC’s alcohol program, said in a statement, according to the New York Daily News.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Hangovers: They’re Costing the U.S. Economy (by Gillian B. White, The Atlantic)

Binge Drinking, Hangovers Cost U.S. Companies Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a Year: CDC  (by Alfred Ng, New York Daily News)

2010 National and State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption (by Jeffrey J. Sacks, MD, MPH, Katherine R. Gonzales, MPH, Ellen E. Bouchery, MS, Laura E. Tomedi, PhD, MPH, Robert D. Brewer, MD, MSPH, American Journal of Preventive Medicine)


anonamouse 8 years ago
Unless those drunks burned that money or threw it into the ocean, you can't really say the $250 billion was "lost." "Repurposed" is more like it. We have a services-based economy. Instead of getting spent at the mall, those billions of dollars went to alcohol makers, medical care and the criminal justice system, some of our healthiest "industries." The bulk of the estimate, for "lost productivity," is just a made-up number --- it attempts to quantify something that can't be quantified: here is one famous example: there was a strike at a hospital during which, it was noticed, the death rate at the facility actually declined, presumably because these temporarily "unproductive" doctors were not around to kill their patients. So how would an economist quantify this? Fewer dollars were spent on doctors, some folks lived a bit longer; but those fewer dollars are all the economists look at. ... All of which points to the absurdity of claiming that costs, mostly due to "lost productivity," have risen 2.7% since 2006 (even disregarding the difficulty of making any sort of dollar comparison after 10 years of inflation/deflation/stagnation). ... All of which smacks of the CDC seeking to justify its "alcohol program," whatever that is. This article simply plays to the common assumption that "sin" is socially reprehensible and costs us all a lot of money. Comforting belief perhaps but not necessarily true. .... An aside: What would really be interesting, if possible, would be an analysis of how much money habitual drunks making poor policy decisions have cost US taxpayers --- a historian cannot help but notice how many among our political leadership are/were heavy drinkers.

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