Cost Of Binge Drinking Reaches $224 Billion Per Year: CDC
October 18, 2011

Cost Of Binge Drinking Reaches $224 Billion Per Year: CDC

Excessive alcohol consumption in the United States results in 79,000 deaths per year and costs $745 per person, according to a report issued Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study used data from 2006, the most recent year for which information was generally available, and found that the costs related to excessive alcohol drinking reached $223.5 billion, or nearly $2 per drink, that year.

Nearly three—quarters of those costs were due to binge drinking, defined as consuming four or more alcoholic beverages per occasion for women or five or more drinks per occasion for men, according to the report.

The remainder of the costs were primarily due to heavy drinking, defined as consuming an average of more than one alcoholic drink per day for women and more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men, and any drinking by pregnant women or underage youth.

The costs resulted mainly from losses in workplace productivity (72 percent of the total cost), health care expenses for problems caused by excessive drinking (11 percent of the total cost), law enforcement and other criminal justice expenses related to excessive alcohol consumption (9 percent of the total cost), and motor vehicle crash costs from impaired driving (6 percent of the total cost), the study found. 

The researchers did not look at a number of other costs, such as those due to pain and suffering by excessive drinkers or others who were affected by the drinking. 

“It is striking that over three—quarters of the cost of excessive alcohol consumption is due to binge drinking, which is reported by about 15 percent of U.S. adults,” said Dr. Robert Brewer, Program Leader at CDC and one of the authors of the report.

“Fortunately, there are a number of effective public health strategies that communities can use to reduce binge drinking and related harms, such as increasing the price of alcohol and reducing the number of places that sell and serve it.”

Overall, the study found that about $94.2 billion (42 percent) of the total economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption were borne by federal, state, and local governments, while $92.9 billion (41.5 percent) was borne by excessive drinkers and their family members.

Government agencies paid most of the health care expenses due to excessive alcohol use (61 percent), while drinkers and their families bore most of the cost of lost productivity (55 percent), primarily in the form of lower household income.

“This research captures the reality that binge drinking means binge spending and, left unchecked, the burdensome cost of excessive drinking will only go up,” said CDC Director Thomas Friden.

“Unfortunately the hangover is being passed on to all of us in the workplace and the health and criminal justice systems.  The cure is responsible individual behavior combined with the successful policies we used to decrease smoking in the United States.”

The study, entitled “Economic Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption in the U.S., 2006," is published in the November 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.


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