Binge drinking costs Badger State billionsHealth First Wisconsin and partners this week announced Wisconsin’s first-ever comprehensive report detailing the cost of excessive alcohol use. According to the Burden of Excessive Alcohol Use in Wisconsin report, excessive alcohol use costs $6.8 billion a year in Wisconsin, or $1,198 for every man, woman and child in the state.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Health First Wisconsin and partners this week announced Wisconsin’s first-ever comprehensive report detailing the cost of excessive alcohol use.
According to the Burden of Excessive Alcohol Use in Wisconsin report, excessive alcohol use costs $6.8 billion a year in Wisconsin, or $1,198 for every man, woman and child in the state.
Of the total cost, $2.9 billion is related to impaired productivity, $2 billion for premature mortality costs, $749 million from increased health care costs, $649 million in criminal justice costs, $418 million in motor vehicle costs and $90 million from other effects, according to the report.
Nationwide, binge drinking rates — which account for about 76 percent of the all economic costs for excessive alcohol consumption — are estimated at 16 percent, significantly lower than 23 percent rate in Wisconsin.
“We’ve always known that Wisconsin has a serious problem with alcohol, but until today, most of us could only guess about the scale of the problem and the cost we all pay,” said Maureen Busalacchi, executive director of Health First Wisconsin, in a prepared statement. “The results of the report are staggering. Excessive alcohol use costs us $6.8 billion and results in 1,500 deaths a year. Over-consumption … is a serious problem in Wisconsin that demands serious action.”
In Douglas County, the binge-drinking rate is higher than the state average by 2 percentage points, and comes at a higher average cost per resident. Overall, costs are estimated at $59.2 million, or almost $1,342 per person.
In 2011, excessive alcohol consumption in Douglas County contributed to at least 13 alcohol-related deaths, 49 hospitalizations and 512 arrests, according to the study.
The report finds the high costs of excessive alcohol use in Wisconsin are shouldered largely by taxpayers, who pick up more than 40 percent of the cost, or about $2.9 billion a year. In Douglas County, taxpayers picked up the tab for about $24.9 million.
Wisconsin has the highest binge drinking rates in the nation — as defined by consuming five or more drinks on an occasion for men and four or more drinks for women.
Overall, alcohol consumption is nearly 30 percent higher than the national average.
The costs place a tremendous burden on the state’s businesses, health care system, and law enforcement and criminal justice systems, according to the report.
“Excessive alcohol use is taking a huge toll on our communities in terms of health, public safety and economic vibrancy,” said Dr. Richard L. Brown, family physician and professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “Moderate drinking can be healthy, but Wisconsin leads the nation in unhealthy and harmful drinking patterns. We’re not just talking about health. We’re talking about negative impacts on every aspect of life in our state with a $6.8 billion price tag that our taxpayers and businesses simply cannot afford.”
The report also highlighted that Wisconsin’s alcohol tax collections pale in comparison to the enormous costs to businesses and taxpayers. In 2011, Wisconsin collected $69 million in alcohol taxes — about 1 percent of the $6.8 billion in economic costs attributed to excessive alcohol use.
“I believe we all can agree that we want Wisconsin to be a place where everyone can feel safe and pursue their health and aspirations,” said Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald. “Unfortunately, we devote far too many resources toward addressing alcohol-fueled violence and crime. Promoting public safety isn’t just about writing traffic tickets or chasing down criminals — it’s about making sure we prevent crime before it starts. Addressing our dangerous and costly alcohol culture is critical to the safety and health of all Wisconsin communities.”
In Barron County, with a binge-drinking rate of 26 percent, excessive alcohol consumption resulted in 12 deaths, 367 hospitalizations and 388 arrests in 2011, and cost $63.5 million.
“We have a daunting problem and as we hope we demonstrated … the costs of excessive alcohol use are taking a toll on our communities. Fortunately, we know what kind of policies would make a difference at the state and local level,” Busalacchi said.