Apart from the headaches, fatigue and nausea people suffer, let’s consider for a moment what hangovers cost our economy, and what the expense is to the employers of all that hungover downtime.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that excessive drinking costs the US economy more than $220 billion annually — or about $1.90 a drink. Some 72% of the costs stem from lost workplace productivity, 11% from health care expenses, 9% law enforcement, and 6% motor vehicle crash costs from impaired driving, the CDC report said.
The problem goes beyond the US. In Australia, sick days will cost up to A$2bn ($1.6bn) in lost productivity in the last two weeks of the year, with some 10% of the workers polled planning to take up to three sick days off to recover from their celebrations, according to a survey of 1,000 workers. Of those who did make it to work the day after an office Christmas party, more than a quarter conceded they were functioning at only 50% productivity.
In the UK, researchers estimate holiday-season hangovers cost businesses almost £260m ($409m). A survey of 1,500 people found that about 25% of employees work for fewer than four hours the day following an office Christmas party and another 20% of workers will call in sick.
“There are also many social and economic burdens resulting from the effects of alcohol on individuals, families, workplaces, and society as a whole,” according to a review of the academic literature done by the Toronto-based Centre for Addition and Mental Health for the European Commission. “These effects add up to a staggering number of alcohol‐attributable social costs, which can be estimated at €155.8 billion a year in Europe.”
There is no known cure for a hangover. The only way to prevent one is to consume alcohol in moderation or abstain entirely. George Koob, director of The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says “The NIH is not putting money into treating hangovers. What we’re trying to do is prevent people from drinking so much they get a hangover.”
“This landmark study highlights the enormous costs that excessive alcohol consumption inflicts on the individuals involved and on society in general,” said Pamela S. Hyde, administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “It also reinforces the importance of addressing behavioral health issues, including substance abuse, through our health care system.”
Excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking is also responsible for an average of 79,000 deaths in the United States each year.