Alcohol abuse costs Britain £27 billion a year

The costs of alcohol abuse are laid bare in a new study which reveals that £27 billion a year is spent in England on the health and social harms of alcohol consumption.

The research found that the additional burden on the NHS, social services, the criminal justice system and the labor market is costing at least 37% more than in 2003, when similar research by the Cabinet Office estimated the cost at between £18.5 billion and £ 20 billion .

Using the same methodology, the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) calculated that alcohol cost the healthcare system £4.9 billion per year, of which more than £3 billion came from alcohol-related A&E visits and hospital admissions.

Official figures released in April showed that a record 10,048 people died from alcohol-related causes in 2022 – the highest level since records began in 2001. Drinking has been linked to a host of health problems, including seven types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis, strokes and strokes. digestive problems.

Alcohol also has a much broader impact on individuals and society. The IAS study estimated the cost of alcohol to the criminal justice system at £14.6 billion, with more than 4 million alcohol-related crimes. Social services spend almost £3 billion every year on the impact of alcohol use on individuals and families.

In the wider economy, the study estimates that £1 billion is lost through unemployment due to alcohol consumption, and almost £4 billion through lost productivity.

The costs to society are not being felt evenly, the IAS found, with the impact of drinking per capita being highest in the North East and lowest in the South West.

Across the population, the average per capita cost of alcohol harm is £485 per year, rising to £562 per year for people living in the North East.

The Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee will hear evidence on alcohol harm next week as part of its inquiry into the prevention of ill health from drinking, smoking, drugs and gambling.

Dr. Katherine Severi, the CEO of IAS, said the data was compelling. “As a country, we cannot afford to sit back and do nothing. The government should develop a comprehensive alcohol strategy to tackle this growing harm, which would have a knock-on effect and also reduce the financial burden,” she said.

Alcohol-related deaths

Reacting to the figures, doctors and public health experts reiterated the need to make alcohol more expensive and harder for young people to buy, and to make it easier for local authorities to control its availability in their region.

Dr. Sarah Clarke, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “Urgent action is needed to tackle the harm caused by alcohol. The costs to individuals and society are enormous and growing year after year. We call for higher taxes on alcohol, health warnings and nutritional information on labeling and restrictions on the marketing of alcohol. This will significantly improve public health and help reduce pressure on an NHS workforce currently facing overwhelming demand.”

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William Roberts, the chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said alcohol remains one of the biggest risk factors for preventable disease. “There are a range of public health interventions that can help minimize alcohol-related harm. These include measures such as minimum unit pricing and empowering local leaders to restrict advertising,” he said.

Alice Wiseman, the vice president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, also called for minimum unit prices and stricter regulations. “The vast marketing machine of the alcohol industry needs to be much more tightly regulated so that we are no longer bombarded with the message that alcohol is a safe and attractive product,” she said. “What is needed now is for the government to take action and develop a new alcohol strategy so that we can reduce the increasing and unacceptable costs of alcohol harm.”

Matt Lambert, the chief executive of the Portman Group, which represents the alcohol industry in Britain, said the IAS failed to take into account the significant direct economic contribution of the alcohol industry or the wider economic and social benefits of moderate and responsible alcohol. consumption in society.

“We fully recognize the impact that alcohol abuse has on healthcare, social services and policing. “That is why the industry remains committed to promoting moderate drinking and supporting partnerships that tackle harm at a local level, including antisocial behavior and underage drinking,” he said. “It is also important to remember that an increasing majority in Britain are drinking responsibly, and harms such as binge drinking, alcohol-related crime and drink driving have fallen significantly over the past decade.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Through our 10-year drugs strategy, supported by £532 million, we are helping a further 54,500 people get alcohol and drug support, and we are also funding specialist alcohol care teams in hospitals in England with the highest rates of alcohol harm and socio-economic deprivation.

“Last August, the government also introduced reforms to alcohol duty, meaning products are taxed directly in proportion to their alcohol content. We are reviewing official estimates of the costs of alcohol harm to support our efforts to tackle alcohol-related harm.”

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