Hangovers cost the US economy tens of billions of dollars each year

You’ll pay for it in the morning—and so will the whole economy.
You’ll pay for it in the morning—and so will the whole economy.
Image: Reuters/Daniel Munoz
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That extra drink or three you had last night may cost more than just your bar tab.

Excessive drinking cost the US economy $249 billion in 2010, up from the $223.5 billion it cost the country in 2006, according to a new analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. That increase, about 2.7% annually, “significantly outpac[ed]” the 1.9% annual inflation rate of the four-year period, researchers found.

The biggest cause of economic loss was lost productivity, which accounted for 71.9% of the total, or about $179 billion. Being hungover at work, and therefore having “impaired productivity” there, cost the economy approximately $77 billion. Health care was 11.4% of the cost, at about $28 billion. Almost half of these costs, 40.4%, were borne by the government.

Binge drinking caused more than three quarters of these costs, 76.7%. Researchers included several categories of “excessive drinking.” Binge drinking was defined as four or more drinks at a time for women or five or more for men; heavy drinking was more than eight drinks per week for women, or 15 for men. And any drinking by people under the age of 21 and pregnant women was also included.

All that boozing comes out to $807 per person per year, or $2.05 per drink.

While there are limitations to the study, the researchers believe they likely underestimated the toll excessive drinking takes on the economy because their estimates were based on primary causes rather than secondary, and did not include “intangible costs like pain and suffering.”