independent advocate reducing alcohol harm

Alcohol and costs

Beyond health consequences, the harmful use of alcohol brings significant social and economic losses to individuals and society at large.


The Health Research Board (HRB) published a comprehensive report in June 2016, which set some of the main costs of alcohol consumption in Ireland.

Alcohol – impact on the economy and tax payer

  • 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.
  • €1.5 billion is the cost to the tax-payer for alcohol-related discharges from hospital. That is equal to €1 for every €10 spent on public health in 2012. This excludes the cost of emergency cases, GP visits, psychiatric admissions and alcohol treatment services.
  • 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 was €41,290,805 in 2013.

A separate review, commissioned by the Department of Health, found that alcohol-related illness cost the healthcare system €800 million in 2013 (.

The report, by Dr Ann Hope, estimated that alcohol-related crime cost €686 million and alcohol-related road accidents cost €258 million.

Meanwhile, the cost of lost economic output due to alcohol was estimated to have been €641 million in 2013, with €195 million due to absenteeism; €185 million due to accidents at work, and €65 million due to premature mortality.

The report, by Dr Ann Hope, outlines the economic costs of deaths, illness and crime attributable to alcohol misuse in Ireland and estimates that the overall cost to Irish society in 2013 was €2.35 billion.

2013 costsThe estimated cost of alcohol harm of €2.35 billion in 2013 is a significant reduction on the figure of €3.7 billion estimated for 2007 in a comprehensive report published in 2010.

This reduction is due to a number of important factors, with cuts in Government spending on the health and justice systems particularly influential:

  • The cost of alcohol related road accidents has fallen sharply, due to the fall in the number of accidents, with drink-driving legislation (e.g. random breath testing, lower limits) proving very successful.
  • The costs to the health care system and the criminal justice system, which are the largest elements of the total cost outlined above, are estimated as a proportion of total spending on those services and spending has been reduced significantly since 2007, when government spending overall peaked before the onset of the recent recession.
  • Total spending on health fell by 23% between 2008 and 2013 and total spending on the Gardaí, courts and prisons fell by 9% in the same period.

Further healthcare costs

  • Every night, 1,500 hospital beds are occupied for alcohol-related reasons
  • 10% of all general in-patient hospital costs, 7% of GP costs and up to 30% of emergency department costs are alcohol-related
  • A 30% reduction in alcohol-related harm would save taxpayers an estimated €1 billion a year, according to the Chief Medical Officer of Ireland