Beyond the health consequences of alcohol harm, alcohol use brings significant social and economic losses to individuals and society at large.
A comprehensive report by the Health Research Board outlines some of the main costs of alcohol consumption in Ireland.
The report finds that:
- The estimated cost to the health system in 2012 of dealing with inpatients with either a wholly or partially alcohol-attributable condition was €1.5 billion, which accounted for 11.0% of all public healthcare expenditure that year. The majority of these costs (77.4%) were associated with discharges with partially attributable alcohol conditions. This excludes the cost of emergency cases, GP visits, psychiatric admissions and alcohol treatment services
- In 2013, alcohol-related discharges accounted for 160,211 bed days in public hospitals, that is 3.6% of all bed days that year; compared to 56,264 bed days or 1.7% of the total number of bed days in 1995.
- An estimated 5,315 people on the Live Register in November 2013 had lost their job due to alcohol use.
- The estimated cost of alcohol-related absenteeism from work was €41,290,805 in 2013. This does not include the costs associated with reduced productivity at work or the cost of alcohol-related injury at work.
Separately, in 2014 a Department of Health commissioned analysis put the cost of alcohol harm at approximately €2.35 billion annually. This figure includes:
- Cost to the health care system €793m
- alcohol-related crime cost €686m
- alcohol-related road accidents cost €258m
- lost economic output due to alcohol €641m (€195 million due to absenteeism, €185 million due to accidents at work, €169 million due to suicide and €65 million due to premature mortality).
In 2018 the HSE published a report The Untold Story: Harms experienced in the Irish population due to others’ drinking, which found that
- One in six carers (16%) reported that children, for whom they had parental responsibility, experienced harm because of someone else’s drinking.
- One in every two people (51%) reported experiencing harm due to strangers’ drinking in the past 12 months.
- Two in every five people (44%) reported experiencing negative consequences due to the drinking of people they know.
- Three in every five people (61%) reported having a known heavy drinker in their life.
- One in seven workers (14%) reported work-related problems due to co-workers’ drinking.
The total cost of these alcohol harms to others was estimated as €872.75 million.
Clearly when it comes to alcohol harm, there is not only a human cost, but a very real financial burden to the state. Measures set out in the Public Health Alcohol Act such as minimum unit pricing, labelling of alcohol products and curbing advertising of alcohol, should all work to help lower some of these costs. AAI recommends that PHAA be implemented in full and without delay.