What are the Economic Costs to Society Attributable to Alcohol Use? A Systematic Review and Modelling Study
Alcohol-attributable costs to society are captured by cost-of-illness studies, however, estimates are often not comparable, e.g. due to the omission of relevant cost components.
In this contribution, the researchers (1) summarize the societal costs attributable to alcohol use, and (2) estimate the total costs under the assumption that all cost components are considered.
A systematic review and meta-analyses were conducted for studies reporting costs from alcohol consumption for the years 2000 and later, using the EMBASE and MEDLINE databases. Cost estimates were converted into 2019 international dollars (Int$) per adult and into the percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). For each study, weights were calculated to correct for the exclusion of cost indicators.
- Of 1708 studies identified, 29 were included.
- The mean costs of alcohol use amounted to 817.6 Int$ per adult, equivalent to 1.5% of the GDP.
- Adjusting for the omission of cost components, the economic costs of alcohol consumption were estimated to amount to 1306 Int$ per adult, or 2.6% of the GDP.
- About one-third of costs (38.8%) were incurred through direct costs, while the majority of costs were due to losses in productivity (61.2%).
The identified cost studies were mainly conducted in high-income settings, with high heterogeneity in the employed methodology. Accounting for some methodological variations, the findings demonstrate that alcohol use continues to incur a high level of cost to many societies.
Summary of Main Findings
Alcohol use continues to incur a high level of cost to modern societies.
In all studies examined in this study, alcohol use incurred substantial costs and, if all harms caused by alcohol were to be included, these costs are estimated to amount, on average, to 1306 Int$ per adult or 2.6% of the GDP in the countries examined.
As a consequence, the findings underscore and reiterate the message given by international organizations to reduce the use of alcohol.