California Staggers Ahead of Nation’s Boozers in Study of Excessive Drinking

Friday, August 16, 2013
(photo: Eric Risberg, Associated Press)

An estimated 80,000 people a year drink themselves to death nationally at great expense, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, led by Californians who cost the state $32 billion in one year alone beyond the price of a drink.

The study of excessive drinking, put together in 2011-12, used a broad array of data from 2006, just before the economic crash gave people a few more good reasons to get drunk.

California’s share amounted to 14.3% of the $223.5 billion researchers said the country spent on “losses in workplace productivity, health care expenses, and other costs due to a combination of criminal justice expenses, motor vehicle crash costs, and property damage.”

California, like all states, saw its greatest expense in loss of productivity (75%), followed by healthcare (9.5%). The rest was scattered among other categories.

Most of the excess nationally (70%) came from binge drinking, which was described as five drinks for men per occasion and four for women. In California, that number was 73.9%. But contributions were also made by heavy drinkers (two a day for men, one for women), young people under 21 and pregnant women. California underage drinking was 10.9% of the total cost, a bit under the 11.2% median.

Although California, with its huge population, dominated total cost numbers, they were closer to the middle of the pack when measured per capita. California’s per capita excessive drinking was $874, around half of that recorded by the District of Columbia ($1,662). The state median is $703.

Utah had the lowest per capita excessive drinking ($578), followed by West Virginia, ($621), Iowa ($622) Nebraska ($632). After D.C., the highest per capita drinking states were Alaska ($1,096), New Mexico ($960), Wyoming ($909) and Colorado ($906). 

The study used data from a number of sources, including Alcohol-Related Disease Impact Application, the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol-Related Conditions, and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. It assessed the costs across 26 cost categories.

Government in general picked up 42.1% of the cost for this wild and crazy behavior.       

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California's Worst-in-the-Nation Boozing Cost $32 Billion in One Year (by Lauren Helper, Silicon Valley Business Times)

State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption, 2006 (by Jeffrey J. Sacks, Jim Roeber, Ellen E. Bouchery, Katherine Gonzales, Frank J. Chaloupka and Robert D. Brewer, American Journal of Preventive Medicine) (pdf)

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