Economy

How Much Your Binge Drinking Is Costing the U.S. Economy

October 19th 2015

By:
Kyle Jaeger

If you woke up with a hangover today, you're not alone in your suffering. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. economy feels your hangover, too. In fact, it feels it to the tune of $249 billion a year.

Between binging on four or more drinks per evening and drinking heavily throughout the week, the average American worker wastes $807 each year in booze-related expenses.

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According to the CDC, 1 in 6 American adults binge drinks about four times a month, and 70 percent of binge drinking episodes occur in people over the age of 26.

In an effort to quantify the cost of excessive drinking in the U.S., CDC researchers looked at how much money was wasted in lost productivity and absenteeism ($82 billion per year), health care costs ($28 billion), crime ($25 billion), car crashes ($13 billion), and mortality due to alcohol ($75 billion). They concluded that heavy drinkers are inadvertently putting a burden on the economy.

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"By factoring in the total amount of alcohol consumed in a given year, they were able to derive the societal cost of a single standard drink," the Washington Post reported. "That pumpkin spice martini that cost you $15 at the bar last night? It also carries a hidden cost to society of $2.05."

The federal and state governments incur approximately $100 billion of these costs. Because $100 billion is significantly more than what the alcohol industry gives back to the government in revenue—about $16 billion from federal, state, and local taxes—the report suggests that raising alcohol taxes might be an effective way to fix the country's hangover problem.

"The report finds that the cost of heavy drinking has been growing over the past few years. It's up 2.7 percent between 2006 and 2010, which outpaces inflation during the same period," Business Insider wrote. "But the actual cost of binge-drinking behavior can be hard to tally, the authors say."

"Assigning cause for instances of hospitalization or motor-vehicle crashes, for examples, can be imprecise. But overall, these figures might be conservative estimates, the researchers note, perhaps underestimating just how costly heavy drinking, and its aftermath, can be. My friend, in other words, is some kind of American hero."