Economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in the U.S., 2006

Am J Prev Med. 2011 Nov;41(5):516-24. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2011.06.045.


Background: Excessive alcohol consumption causes premature death (average of 79,000 deaths annually); increased disease and injury; property damage from fire and motor vehicle crashes; alcohol-related crime; and lost productivity. However, its economic cost has not been assessed for the U.S. since 1998.

Purpose: To update prior national estimates of the economic costs of excessive drinking.

Methods: This study (conducted 2009-2010) followed U.S. Public Health Service Guidelines to assess the economic cost of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006. Costs for health care, productivity losses, and other effects (e.g., property damage) in 2006 were obtained from national databases. Alcohol-attributable fractions were obtained from multiple sources and used to assess the proportion of costs that could be attributed to excessive alcohol consumption.

Results: The estimated economic cost of excessive drinking was $223.5 billion in 2006 (72.2% from lost productivity, 11.0% from healthcare costs, 9.4% from criminal justice costs, and 7.5% from other effects) or approximately $1.90 per alcoholic drink. Binge drinking resulted in costs of $170.7 billion (76.4% of the total); underage drinking $24.6 [corrected] billion; and drinking during pregnancy $5.2 billion. The cost of alcohol-attributable crime was $73.3 billion. The cost to government was $94.2 billion (42.1% of the total cost), which corresponds to about $0.80 per alcoholic drink consumed in 2006 (categories are not mutually exclusive and may overlap).

Conclusions: On a per capita basis, the economic impact of excessive alcohol consumption in the U.S. is approximately $746 per person, most of which is attributable to binge drinking. Evidence-based strategies for reducing excessive drinking should be widely implemented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / economics*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / complications
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / economics*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / complications
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / economics
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Crime / economics
  • Databases, Factual
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • United States