Binge drinking costs Britain £4.9bn every year due to treating drunks in A&E, road crashes, arrests and court cases
This equates to £77 a day for every person in the country
Economists recommend a 52p minimum unit price to pay for the costs
They are calling for a hike in excise duty to raise the price of a pint by 23p
Worldwide, alcohol abuse is a top preventable cause of death and disease
Source: Daily Mail
By Madlen Davies for MailOnline
30 March 2015
Binge drinking is costing Britain £4.9bn every year, according to researchers who are calling for minimum unit prices on alcohol in light of their findings.
The effects of binge drinking in Britain is costing the country a staggering £550,000 an hour or £4.9 billion a year, they claim.
The shocking statistic is revealed in a new study that adds up the cost of drink-related incidents including A&E admissions, road crashes, police time and court cases.
The damning report says current policies on alcohol taxation are failing to keep up with the financial consequences of people drinking to excess.
Dr Jonathan James, one of the research team from the University of Bath, said: ‘We know a lot about the effects and costs of sustained heavy drinking in relation to increased risks of chronic diseases, damage to social relationships and the increased burden placed on public services.
‘But little is known about the economic and social effects of binge drinking.
‘We hope this calculation of the economic costs will act as a catalyst for policy makers in the UK to take action to reduces the cost of binge drinking to society.’
Binge drinking usually refers to drinking a lot of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk.
In the UK, doctors define binge drinking as consuming eight or more units in a single session for men and six or more for women.
‘WONDER’ DRUG COULD CURE BINGE DRINKING, SCIENTISTS CLAIM
It sounds too good to be true, but scientists claim to have discovered a drug that reduces the harmful effects of binge drinking.
The compound reduces the loss of brain cells and the inflammation that results from bouts of heavy drinking.
In the long term heavy drinking can cause damage to the brain, triggering symptoms like poor memory.
The team of scientists at the University of Huddersfield believe the drug could also be used to treat Alzheimer’s and other diseases that damage the brain.
The report’s combined estimates of £4.9 billion annually is equivalent to almost £13.5 million a day – or the equivalent of £77 day for every person in Britain.
The researchers are recommending a minimum 52 pence minimum unit price for alcohol and a boost in alcohol excise duty in line with alcohol strength – which could see the price of a pint rise by 23p and a bottle of wine by 99p.
The authors calculate that binge drinking increases the average number of injury-related A&E admissions by 8 per cent every day – equivalent to 2,504 additional daily admissions across the country.
It increases the daily average of road accidents by 17 per cent – equivalent to 82 additional accidents per day nationally.
And it causes a 45 per cent rise in the average number of alcohol-related arrests – equivalent to 786 additional arrests per day nationally.
This means the number of police officers on duty goes up by almost a third because of alcohol-related offences and incidents
That’s the equivalent to an additional 3.2 police officers on duty at the weekend for every 10,000 people in the country.
The research team, at Bath University – working with colleagues at Essex University – conclude that to mitigate these effects and recover the extra costs would mean a hike of 10p per unit.
And it also leads to an 8 per cent increase in the the average number of injury-related A&E admissions every day – equivalent to 2,504 additional daily admissions across the country
Helpful animation explains the effects alcohol has on your body
Collaborator, Professor Marco Francesconi, head of the Department of Economics at the University of Essex, added: ‘Our calculations put the cost at £4.9 billion per year which is large when compared to Government’s spending on some welfare programmes.
‘But we haven’t included costs associated with absenteeism, lost employment, reduced productivity, and long-term health problems.’
‘Harmful alcohol use has been identified as one of the leading preventable causes of death and key risk factors for chronic disease, such as cancer, and injuries worldwide.’
The report comes just a month after the head of the NHS warned binge drinking fuelled by cheap alcohol is having a ‘huge impact’ on health services.
Chief executive Simon Stevens said the Government needed to deal with the ‘overuse’ of alcohol urgently as it is creating problems for over-stretched A&E units.
He highlighted figures showing that the average price of alcohol relative to wages has dropped by almost half since the 1980s.
Although Mr Stevens did not directly call for a minimum price for alcohol, he said ministers should ‘take a look’ at what needed to be done.
The most recent NHS figures show that more than one million patients are being admitted to hospital for alcohol-related illness and injuries every year – twice as many as a decade ago.
But despite the ever-growing toll on health services, the Government has so far refused to introduce minimum pricing.
Ministers claim it would hit responsible drinkers but critics accuse them of ‘dancing to the tune’ of the alcohol industry.
And while binge drinking puts added pressure on health services, research has shown it can actually alter a person’s genes.
US researchers said that excessive alcohol use can cause changes in the liver.
It changes basic proteins called histones by altering how they protect and regulate DNA.
This initially causes inflammation and damage to the cells as they form, but it is also eventually the cause of more serious diseases such as cirrhosis (liver damage) and cancer, researchers said.
The findings were presenting his findings at the Royal Economic Society Conference in Manchester.