Centers for Disease Control says alcohol cost US economy $224bn in 2006

Centers for Disease Control says alcohol cost US economy $224bn in 2006

A US government-backed study seeking to quantify the cost of excess alcohol cosumption has said that heavy drinking cost the US economy $223.5bn in 2006.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) said that almost three quarters of this cost was due to binge drinking, which it defines as five or more drinks in one sitting for men and four or more drinks for women. Its report, published yesterday (17 October), found that most of the costs related to lost work hours.

Health expenses accounted for 11% of the total, said the CDC. Data from 2006 is the latest available.

Publication of the report will increase the pressure for government action, particularly in light of researchers' finding that 42% of the total costs for excess drinking are borne by state and federal government agencies. Levels of heavy drinking and binge drinking among US adults remained broadly constant between 2006 and 2009, suggesting that the $223.5bn figure for 2006 is unlikely to have decreased significantly.  

The CDC said that several "evidence-based strategies" are available to tackle the problem, such as high duty tax on alcohol and stricter controls on selling licences. CDC director Thomas Frieden said: "The cure is responsible individual behaviour combined with the successful policies we used to decrease smoking in the US." 

Drinks producers have repeatedly warned that higher taxes on their products will lead to job losses, amid tough economic conditions. In 2008, the alcoholic beverage industry contributed around $388bn to the US economy, according to the US Distilled Spirits Council.

The CDC-backed study, “Economic Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption in the US, 2006", is published online here and will feature in next month's issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.