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A bad hangover won't just hurt your head - it's damaging the country as well

A new US study has calculated the cost of binge drinking to the economy.

Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive

IF YOU’RE FEELING the ill effects after a few too many pints at the weekend, your drinking is probably doing more than hurting your head: it’s doing damage to the economy as well.

A new study from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has calculated the cost of binge drinking to the national finances, putting the total burden of excessive booze on the US economy at $249 billion (€219 billion at today’s rates) in 2010.

The burden from most of the factored costs was in lost productivity – people either showing up for work too hungover to perform tasks properly or from those who didn’t make it into the office at all.

The largest share of the remainder was in added healthcare costs to treat the short- and long-term effects of the booze and the financial burden of alcohol-related crime.

Booze Source: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

Binge drinking, for the purpose of the study, was defined as 5 or more drinks in one session for men and 4 for women.

The $249 billion figure represents about 1.7% of the total US economy, which was worth $14.58 trillion in 2010.

World Health Organisation figures for that year put the rate of “heavy episodic drinking” in the US among people aged 15 and over at just under 17%. The prevalence in Ireland was more than double at 39% of the equivalent population.

Drinking Source: WHO

The annual cost of alcohol abuse in the Republic has been estimated at €3.7 billion per year, an even higher per-capita rate than the US figures.

In the US study, just over $100 billion of the total cost to the economy was calculated as falling on the government in dealing with the health costs, lost working hours and associated crime.

The authors noted excess drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age Americans.

READ: Stress is making a lot of you take time off work >

READ: You’ll now have to break a €20 to buy a pack of cigs >

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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