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Lost productivity and costs to society

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Having a single monetary amount that provides an indicator of alcohol misuse can be a powerful instrument for those advocating policy action. Existing studies suggest that alcohol use in any year may yield costs that are equivalent to 2-5% of the gross national product. While useful, such figures do not indicate which combinations of policies could yield the greatest net benefits for their populations. There may also be interest in the effects of alcohol use on public finances or the fairness of both taxes and welfare payments across different groups of the population. Which items are identified as being relevant and how these effects are measured and valued will depend on which policy question is being addressed. There are, however, a number of common issues such as whether costing studies should be confined to the heaviest and problematic, how benefits of alcohol consumption should be measured, how future benefits in terms of health gains should be valued and whether the costs to the drinker are important or only those costs which are borne by third parties. There will not always be simple answers to these questions. However, even if costing studies are confined to third party effects and the most conservative assumptions are taken, it is clear that there is powerful evidence that many societies would be better off if action is taken to prevent alcohol problems. Research on the effects of alcohol use is becoming increasingly sophisticated and this will lead to improvements in costing studies. Productivity losses are likely to remain one of the most significant costs of alcohol misuse.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1997-03-01

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