Hungover at Work: Drinking Costs U.S. Economy $200 Billion in Production

Posted by Mike Tirone - Friday, February 3rd, 2012

How do you unwind after a long day at work? Do you listen to music? Exercise? Take a nap? These are all well and good, but a very large majority of us hit the bottle. And it's now coming to the attention of countries – and their economies-- that perhaps we have a global drinking problem...

Now before you assume the next words are, “we brought you here because we love you and are concerned about your drinking,” don't worry, this is no intervention.

Recent studies have shown that work productivity and drinking have considerable connections and a “major negative impact” on overall productivity.

In England, researchers found that 14 million working days are lose each year, at the cost of £6.4 billion ($10.1 billion), due to lost productivity and absenteeism because of excessive drinking.

From The Telegraph,

Around 10 [million] men and women in England drink above the recommended guidelines and every day, about 200,000 people go to work in the U.K. with a hangover.

The charity Alcohol Concern of the U.K. has warned FTSE 250 companies about brushing aside drinking problems among their workers, as it can have a serious impact on overall work ethic and health.

The charity says that companies are doing very little beyond enabling the “obvious” rule prohibiting employees from being drunk at work. They are trying to convince companies to take a closer look at their financial losses incurred through workers' reduced performance caused by alcohol and create formal responsibilities to address these problems.

Alcohol Concern chief executive Eric Appleby says “it's costing the economy billions each year... The evidence is that boards are not taking the issue seriously.”

According to one source, alcohol related hospital visits are going to rise by 1.5 million in the next few years if the government does not take better action toward the issue in the U.K, which can result in £3.7 billion ($5.8 billion) in costs to the government's National Health Services. 

This is a worldwide issue. With inflation rising across the globe, economies still trying to rebound-- or continuing to collapse-- and work demand soaring across all industries, drinking is a venting outlet. And the alcohol industry is one of the few sectors that continues to boom thanks to sinking morale.

An old adage is, “when all goes to hell, invest in gambling, tobacco, and alcohol” which it looks like many around the globe are doing.

Specifically in the United States, the Center For Disease Control and Prevention released a report on the economic costs of excessive drinking which addressed the adverse effects of excessive drinking on the economy.

Of the total economic costs of alcoholic consumption in the U.S., which was $233.5 billion during their study-year 2006, over 72% was the result of binge drinking. The last time the CDC conducted the same research back in 1998, the cost was $185 billion, which is a 21% increase in costs solely related to drinking.

“While health-care made up 11 percent of the $223.5 billion cost and motor vehicle accidents was only part of the miscellaneous category totaling 7.5 percent, loss of productivity was a little more than 72 percent of the entire economic loss.”

The study estimates an economic impact of close to $1,000 per person with relation to excessive drinking.

"The researchers found that about $94.2 billion, or 42 percent, of the total economic cost of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 was picked up by federal, state, and local governments.

Another $92.9 billion, or 41.5 percent, was absorbed by the drinkers and their families, largely in the form of lower household income."

The global alcohol industry's global business figures are scarcely reported, as the numbers vary dramatically depending on the source, but according to a handful of medical journals the industry creates over $150 billion in global business. Therefore the the cost-benefit ratio between economic revenue for alcohol is, in fact, significantly lower than the amount being put back into the workforce through productivity.

So the next time you have the urge to excessively cope with the struggling economy and the rest of life's worries by hitting the bottle, think about your particular impact on the global economy. Actually, don't think like that, it may make your head spin even more than it already does at that barstool...

*Quoted excerpt from Huffington Post

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