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Billions drained from economy by drinking

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Seven in 10 people in the United States who die of conditions related to excessive alcohol consumption are working age adults. That figure alone makes this yet another problem that employers must confront.

In a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Preventing Chronic Disease, the CDC says the tragedy of alcohol-related early deaths not only ruins the lives of drinkers and those around them, but also extracts a toll from the economy.

“It’s shocking to see the public health impact of excessive drinking on working-age adults,” said Robert Brewer, head of CDC’s alcohol program and one of the report’s authors. “CDC is working with partners to support the implementation of strategies for preventing excessive alcohol use that are recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force, which can help reduce the health and social cost of this dangerous risk behavior.”

The CDC studied mortality statistics and found that, in the period 2006-2010, about 88,000 people a year died from alcohol-related diseases, accidents or violence. Lives were shortened by an average of 30 years. Doing the math, the CDC said “there were 2.5 million years of potential life lost each year due to excessive alcohol use.”

“Excessive drinking cost the United States about $224 billion, or $1.90 per drink, in 2006,” the CDC reported. “Most of these costs were due to lost productivity, including reduced earnings among excessive drinkers as well as deaths due to excessive drinking among working age adults.”

Deaths related to alcohol were predominantly male: 70 percent of those who died were men. The CDC said about 5 percent were people under the age of 21. The rate was highest in New Mexico, with 51 deaths per 100,000 population, and lowest in New Jersey, with 19 out of 100,000 dying due to alcohol.

“These deaths were due to health effects from drinking too much over time, such as breast cancer, liver disease, and heart disease; and health effects from drinking too much in a short period of time, such as violence, alcohol poisoning, and motor vehicle crashes,” the report said.

CDC defined excessive drinking as “binge drinking (4 or more drinks on an occasion for women, 5 or more drinks on an occasion for men), heavy drinking (8 or more drinks a week for women, 15 or more drinks a week for men), and any alcohol use by pregnant women or those under the minimum legal drinking age of 21.”

See also:

Employer health costs are expected to rise in 2015

Termination of disability to impaired worker upheld