Excessive Alcohol Consumption Costs U.S. Economy Over $200 Billion Per Year

Heavy drinking is costing the U.S. economy more than $200 billion a year, mostly in lost workplace productivity, a U.S. health agency said on Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Monday that in 2006 the price tag for excessive drinking was an estimated $223.5 billion, nearly 21 percent higher than the $185 billion it cost in 1998, the last time a similar study was done.

Seventy two percent was due to lost productivity and the most of the cost was borne by the drinkers themselves in the form of lost income.

Health care outlays accounted for another 11 percent of the total economic cost of heavy drinking, the CDC said, followed by criminal justice expenses and motor vehicle crash costs caused by impaired drivers.

The CDC defines excessive drinking as, on average, more than one alcoholic beverage a day for women, and more than two a day for men.

But the agency said that nearly three-quarters of the costs were caused by binge drinking -- four or more drinks per occasion for by women or five or more for men.

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 study, "Economic Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption in the U.S., 2006," appears in the November 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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