(Reuters) - The toll that heavy drinking takes on the U.S. economy is rising, costing over $200 billion a year, mostly a result of lost workplace productivity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday.
It said that in 2006, the most recent year for which data was available, excessive drinking cost the country an estimated $223.5 billion, nearly 21 percent higher than the $185 billion it cost in 1998, the last time a similar study was undertaken.
The majority of the cost, or 72 percent, came in the form of lost workplace productivity, the CDC said.
While that naturally hurt the businesses where the drinkers worked, the CDC said the majority of the lost productivity cost was actually borne by the drinkers themselves in the form of lost income.
Health care outlays accounted for another 11 percent of the total economic cost of heavy drinking, the CDC said, followed by criminal justice expenses and motor vehicle crash costs caused by impaired drivers.
The CDC defines excessive drinking as the consumption, on average, of more than one alcoholic beverage a day for women, and more than two a day for men.
But the agency said that nearly three-quarters of the costs were actually caused by binge drinking, which it defines as the consumption of four or more drinks per occasion by women or five or more by men.
The researchers found that about $94.2 billion, or 42 percent, of the total economic cost of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 was picked up by federal, state, and local governments.
Another $92.9 billion, or 41.5 percent, was absorbed by the drinkers and their families, largely in the form of lower household income.
The study, "Economic Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption in the U.S., 2006," appears in the November 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
(Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)