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Drunks cost America $223 billion a year

About 72% of that is due to lost productivity at work. Think hangovers and Don Draper wannabes.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 21, 2011 12:23PM

This post comes from Matt Brownell at partner site MainStreet.


MainStreet on MSN MoneyNext time you're thinking of having that "one more drink" that's going to put you over the limit, think about what you're doing to your country.


According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drunks cost this country $223 billion a year through excess alcohol consumption. The human toll is also dismal: Drinking too much takes approximately 79,000 American lives a year.


So why does heavy drinking cost so much?


For the most part, it has to do with lost productivity at work, which accounts for 72% of the economic impact; presumably this is mainly attributed to employees with hangovers and businessmen trying to resurrect the three-martini lunches of old. The other big factors are health care costs (binge drinking isn't exactly good for your health), criminal justice system expenses stemming from alcohol-related incidents, and car crashes resulting from DUIs. Post continues after video.

While the study looked at the overall economic impact of problem drinkers, booze can also hit your own wallet hard -- even if you're a responsible drinker. As MainStreet learned last year, the average American spends close to $100 a month in bars and liquor stores -- money that could add up to an extra $35,000 in your retirement account by the time you turn 65 if you decide to save instead of drink. (Are you saving enough for retirement? Try MSN Money's calculator.)


The CDC defines "excessive alcohol consumption" as binge drinking (four or more drinks in one sitting for a woman, five or more for a man), heavy drinking (more than one drink a day on average for a woman, or more than two drinks a day for a man) and any drinking done by a pregnant woman or child.


More on MainStreet and MSN Money:

Oct 24, 2011 7:33AM
Let's live our lives as blandly as possible and then we can all save for retirement!! No drinking, driving, pill popping, eating good food, shopping, watching TV, talking on a phone, surfing the Internet, climbing trees (because you MIGHT fall out), or anything that is remotely entertaining or fun. I hate these BS stories saying you shouldn't do this or that because it costs you money. Not doing these things costs you the spice of life.
Oct 24, 2011 1:44PM
Oct 24, 2011 8:16PM
The only thing cannabis costs this country is the ridiculous amount of money spent trying to eradicate it.
Oct 24, 2011 1:23PM
The way this country is ran can you blame anyone for drinking to much?
Oct 24, 2011 7:03AM
These stats are crap. They are to support the grant money given to do the study. A friend of the family just passed away at 83 years old. The doctor blamed it on a life of excessive drinking. 30 years ago, it would have been called old age. Nobody dies of old age anymore.
Oct 21, 2011 11:12PM
Think about how much the drunks in The House & Congress cost us!
Oct 24, 2011 3:16PM
How much do our Politicians cost us......sure it is more than this. 
Oct 22, 2011 7:45PM

This is one of the most idiotic things I've read recently. Didn't we learn anything from prohibition? Well....I suppose not since we still have the the great "war on drugs". [ 40+ years of wasted taxpayer monies] If you make something illegal you merely drive people to the black market and allow criminals to make billions. A certain percentage of people will find a way to destroy themselves regardless of what roadblocks you put in their path. We need to accept the fact that some people simply lack self control, and we can't fix it. The rest of us shouldn't have to suffer because of a few idiots.


Jeez, I need a drink!

Oct 21, 2011 8:50PM

i am so sick of hearing from the risk management people and the financial sector of healthcare with their stories about how peoples lifestyles are broken down into $ amounts.  I remember when people had the choice to make decisions and they were the ones who paid the penalty for not doing the right thing.  So is this suppose to make me angry about those that drink just like these groups did with smokers?  Well I say to each his/her own.  I don't need some number cruncher to dictate how I live my life, or put a price on what I do and do not do. 


I'll tell you what, how much undo stress and distress do all these ridiculous statements cause society.  STOP MICRO MANAGING PEOPLES LIVES!!!!

Oct 24, 2011 10:35AM

Drunks seem to be creating jobs for healthcare workers, rehab facilities, social workers, etc...wheres the study on that?!


Oct 23, 2011 12:44AM

"For the most part, it has to do with lost productivity at work, which accounts for 72% of the economic impact; presumably this is mainly attributed to employees with hangovers and businessmen trying to resurrect the three-martini lunches of old."


Tell me old chap, how exactly, does one measure loss of productivity due to hangovers and then correlate it to a 223 billion dollar cost to the economy?  This has to be the weakest article I've ever read on the internet. How's that for a generalization?  Also, listen to this fact I just made up:  90% of statistics are made up. Sigh, me.

Oct 24, 2011 7:43PM
Over the last decade, I have had all my sick days taken away, my vacations taken away, and have a total of five holidays for the entire year left. Don't give me any crap about the U.S. losing money if I take a day off to have a drink or even if I take a day off to nurse a hangover.

I work about 45 - 55 hours a week on average, pay all my own bills, and don't depend on anybody else for anything. So I don't apologize for having a few drinks when I feel like it - usually about twice a week.

And since it is not costing anybody else anything, it is none of their business....

Oct 26, 2011 7:04PM
how about the PROCESSED FOOD INDUSTRY???   they cost this country far more money per year in health costs and deaths than alcohol or tobacco do.
Oct 24, 2011 1:02PM
i"m doing my part for "lost productivity" right now...hold on...gotta open a beer and light a cig!
Oct 24, 2011 7:08AM
Mysticaltyger... So drinkers should pay more health care costs than others? So, should smokers pay more too? How about rock climbers? How about motorcycle riders? How about people that drive small cars? How about FAT people? How about vegetarians??? With all the e-coli and other bacterias in fruits and vegetables, they're probably at greater risk.

I rarely drink but if I want to tie one on a couple times a year, I sure as hell will. I don't smoke, but if I'm diagnosed with a terminal illness, I'm heading out to buy a carton. People like you don't make sense.

Oct 22, 2011 10:45AM
Yes, we should outlaw alcohol tobacco transfats red meat sugar anything in the candy and cookie isles as well as extreme sports and driving over 30 mph. How about this instead...don't blame the bullet, blame the idiot pulling the trigger.
Oct 21, 2011 7:55PM

Costs are relative, what is the cost of doing without? If we all stop ,doesn't the lack off money movement have an extremely bad impact on the economy? What about the loss of jobs? a lot of people work in the liqueur industry. How about health benefits when used in moderation.  Alcohol , Food, Drugs , medicines , religion , politics.. All have a cost when taken beyond moderation.

As for lost productivity, Well , Harumf, Don't most of the employers out there underpay and overwork their employees? But the job still gets done, What lost productivity? they already bleed us dry !   

Oct 26, 2011 8:21PM
Still lower than what Washington is costing us!!!
Oct 24, 2011 1:11PM
Now lets see how many people smokin weed were killed last year, and how much the gov. profited.. I mean cost us taxpayers.
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