Binge drinking costs taxpayers £4.9 billion

31st March, 2015 by Melita Kiely

Binge drinking is costing British taxpayers £4.9 billion every year and policies implemented to regulate alcohol sales and consumption are “inadequate” at easing economic strains, new study argues.

Binge-Drinking-US

Binge drinking costs UK taxpayers £4.9 billion a year

Researchers from the Department of Economics at the University of Bath and the University of Essex examined various social and economic factors, such as A&E admissions, road accidents, arrests and police officers on duty.

They calculated that overall the cost to the UK economy stands at £4.9 billion per year – £77 per person.

The researchers hope the findings – reported in The cost of binge drinking in the UK – will act as “a catalyst” to spur UK policy makers into action.

“Much is known about the effects and costs of sustained heavy drinking in relation to increased risks of chronic diseases, the damage to social relationships and the increased burden placed on public services,” commented Dr Jonathan James, department of economics, at the University of Bath. “However, little is known about the economic and social effects of binge drinking.

“We hope this calculation of the economic costs can act as a catalyst for policy makers in the UK to take targeted action that reduce the cost of binge drinking to society.”

In order to tackle the costs, the academics involved in the report suggested the implementation of a minimum unit price for alcohol of 52p.

“Our calculations suggest a cost of £4.9 billion per year,” added collaborator professor Marco Francesconi, head of department of economics at the University of Essex. “This is large when compared to government’s spending on some welfare programmes.

“For instance, it corresponds to 23% of the expenditures on housing benefit.

“Furthermore, our estimate does not include costs associated with absenteeism, lost employment, reduced productivity, and long-term problems.”

The study also suggested binge drinking increases the average number of daily injury-related A&E hospital admissions by 2,504 patients (8%); average daily road accidents by 82 (17%); average number of alcohol-related arrests by 786 (45%); and the number of police officers on duty by 3.2 at weekends for every 10,000 citizens (up 30%).

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