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Cutting Alcohol Use in Australia Could Result in Economic Health

Posted in Alcohol Abuse

When considering the negative consequences of alcohol use disorders, it is easy to document the potential difficulties experienced in an individual’s life. There are often financial struggles, challenges to academic and professional achievement, and rifts in both social and family relationships.

However, the impact of alcohol misuse also has extensive reach. Public health costs are driven up by heavy alcohol use. Those with alcohol use disorders may be uninsured or unemployed, making it difficult to pay for medical care associated with alcohol-related injury or illness.

A recent study documented the potential impact of cutting alcohol use in Australia. The study was published in a recent edition of the American Journal of Public Health. The results show how reducing annual alcohol consumption could benefit the public health of the country, and also improve its economic conditions.

The study finds that Australia could realize significant economic and health improvements by reducing its overall national annual alcohol consumption. The information is critical for policymakers, because it could help increase funds available to those who create strategies for alcoholism education, prevention and intervention.

The researchers estimate that significant improvements could be seen if alcohol consumption was reduced by 3.4 liters per capita. The reduction would result in a savings of $789 million for the healthcare sector. This savings would be the result of the reduction of alcohol-related deaths, disease, lost work days and even lost hours for telecommuting employees.

These improvements would be seen if the alcohol consumption of Australia on a per capita basis could be reduced to an average of 6.4 liters.

The authors of the study used a friction cost approach (FCA), a conservative way to estimate savings to public health and broader economic spheres. To reach this number, the researchers estimated not only public health costs, but also a decrease shown in days missed from work and an increase in home-based production.

The authors estimate that there would be a reduction of 98,000 in cases of alcohol-related disease and a reduction of 380 deaths. The expected reduction of days of work was estimated to be 5 million, in addition to 54,000 of home-production days.

The authors also estimated that there would be a loss of 28,000 leisure days in addition to 1,000 additional cases of early retirement.

The researchers based their estimates using numbers of 2008. Their findings show that by targeting alcohol use for reduction, there could be immediate savings gained in public health and in the overall economy.

The information is helpful for those who plan public policy and make decisions about where substance abuse treatment centers will be located. Strategic plans to reduce alcohol consumption could result in major gains for Australia.