Buzzkill: Hangovers Annually Cost The U.S. Economy More Than A Year Of Natural Disasters

They can holler about the cost of welfare, immigrants, Medicaid and Obamacare, but when hangovers cost more than hurricanes that's a sobering reality check.. Image @KRMG

They can holler about the cost of welfare, immigrants, Medicaid and Obamacare, but when hangovers cost more than hurricanes that’s a sobering reality check.. Image @KRMG

When the cost of Hurricane Sandy, the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma, the earthquakes and fires and natural disasters of every kind are added up, the staggering tally of those catastrophic events comes to about $160 billion a year. Putting aside social programs and war, it’s hard to imagine what else might cost the economy as much as the tab on natural disasters. But something does. Something odd and unexpected does. HANGOVERS.

Hangovers cost the U.S. economy, in terms of lost productivity, a whopping total of $223 BILLION. That’s billion! A sobering reality as we recover from the recently wrapped 4th of July and get deeper into the season of beach parties, family gatherings, office picnics and like… all of which, in this country of imbibers, come with the consumption of alcohol.

Inebriation is killing the economy.

The CDC studies the issue once every decade, with the most recent figures on the impact of alcohol consumption and the subsequent day-after recovery tabulated in 2006, and the statistics offer a harsh statement, not only about Americans’ love affair with alcohol, but how easily we tend to ignore some of the more concrete and controllable drains on the economy while focused on partisan-driven agendas. Politicians can holler about welfare, immigrants, Medicaid and other social programs, but how willing are they to look at the too-red noses on American faces? When partying-hearty drains the coffers in numbers larger than some of the most devastating natural disasters, it’s time for an intervention.

According to the CDC Report:

Researchers found the costs largely resulted 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 did not consider a number of other costs such as those due to pain and suffering by the excessive drinker or others who were affected by the drinking, and thus may be an underestimate. Researchers estimated that excessive drinking cost $746 per person in the United States in 2006.

“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 R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  “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.”  [… ]

Overall, researchers 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. [Emphasis added.]

$94.2 billion is, essentially, out of the pockets of taxpayers. We, the people, are paying for the excessive drinking habits of some of our fellow citizens. And conservatives (not a few of whom enjoy the drink) scream about Obamacare??

Given that the research – a collaborative effort by the CDC and the Lewin Group, published in the American Journal of Medicine – was last done in 2006, heavily publicized in 2011, and recently revisited as part of the discussion on the continuing struggle of the American economy to right itself, one can only imagine the figures have increased in the ensuing years. This is not only disturbing on an economic level, but the impact on public health is staggering. It’s an interesting debate, too, when you consider the growing cultural acceptance of legalizing marijuana which, many would argue, does not come with quite the societal impact of alcohol consumption (though stoners in the workplace do tend to do their part for lost productivity!).

As we continue to view our health care through the prism of mandated laws, insurance coverage, doctors and hospitals, it might also behoove us to also take a look through the prism of self-management. When the very popular pastime of imbibing to the point of inebriation extends into the workplace and, subsequently, the economy and coffers of taxpayers, we need to rethink. Because these figures are a cold-water dip:

Americans have about 117 billion alcoholic drinks each year. Hangovers cost us about $1.37 for each drink in lost productivity.

That’s the average. But not all drinkers are equally to blame. Just 15 percent of binge-drinking adults are responsible a whopping three-quarters of the costs of excessive alcohol consumption. [Source]

Interesting how 15 percent of of the drinking demographic accounts for that much waste and expense. Forget intervention; we should get all the Republicans fixated on denying women their medical heath coverage and steer them, instead, toward that very expensive 15 percent. $94.2 billion in taxpayer dollars is nothing to sneeze at and that’s the bunch that needs management, not women.

Maybe Michele Bachmann can take them on… she’s going to be looking for a job soon!

Click HERE to read the full report.