CDC Report on the High Price of Alcohol
By David Martin, RN, CEO and President, VeinInnovations
A new report by the Centers for Disease Control takes a topline look at the high cost of excessive alcohol use in the U.S., detailing the impact on workplace productivity, crime, and the costs associated with treating people for the plethora of health concerns caused by over-imbibing. There are other costs as well, not the least of which is that one-in-ten deaths among working aged Americans (ages 20-64) can somehow be attributed to excessive alcohol use.
Focusing on the economics of the report, the study reveals an estimated a $249 billion wallop to the nation’s economy caused by excessive alcohol use in 2010. This was up significantly from the prior study’s estimate of $223.5 billion in 2006, a disturbing trend to say the least.
Drink by drink, that means every alcoholic beverage consumed in 2010 cost the economy $2.05, whereas the per-drink cost in 2006 was $1.90. The state with the highest cost to the economy per drink in 2010 was New Mexico, at $2.77 a drink.
How are those costs estimated?
CDC researchers look at reduced productivity in the workplace, crime associated with excessive alcohol abuse, and the high cost of treating people whose health problems are caused or exacerbated by excess alcohol consumption.
For men, drinking five or more drinks at one time, and for women, four or more drinks – the practice called binge drinking – put 77 percent of the costs on the tab. Who is paying those costs? More than $100 billion — two out of every five dollars – was paid by your taxes.
The fact that people were drinking more from 2006 to 2010, in light of the economic downturn during that time, was of special concern to the head of the CDC’s Alcohol program, Robert Brewer, M.D., and M.S.P.H.
“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. Effective prevention strategies can reduce excessive drinking and related costs in states and communities, but they are under used,” said Dr. Brewer, who was also one of the authors of the study.
With regard to deaths caused by alcohol, he reported alcohol consumption as being responsible for an average of 88,000 deaths a year, which translates to be one in 10 deaths among Americans ages 20-64: working aged Americans.
Breaking the costs of excessive alcohol use down further, the range paid by state went from $488 million in North Dakota to $35 billion in California, with the median for all states and the District of Columbia coming in at $3.5 billion. This means that in Washington, D.C., economic cost of a person who drank excessively was $1526, as compared to the national average of $807.
The CDC explains that 2010 figures were derived by looking at the occurrence of alcohol-related problems in 2010 and the cost of paying for them, vs. the same figures for 2006.
Even though difference was significant, researchers believe that the study “underestimates the cost of excessive drinking because information on alcohol is often underreported or unavailable, and the study did not include other costs, such as pain and suffering due to alcohol-attributable harms.”
The costs of pain and suffering are much harder to calculate, but we will take a look at those, and some local organizations working to raise awareness of problems caused by excessive alcohol use, in “Live Healthy Atlanta” columns to come.
For more information: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/.