Alcohol abuse costing £27bn a year in England, new study finds

Stock image of man drinking beer (PA Wire)
Stock image of man drinking beer (PA Wire)

Alcohol abuse is costing England a whopping £27bn a year, a new study has estimated.

The research conducted by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) totalled up the extra burden on the NHS, social services and the criminal justice system, finding the total cost was at least 37 per cent higher than in 2003.

It calculated that the burden to the health service was £4.9bn a year, of which more than £3bn was from increased A&E and hospital admissions, The Guardian reported.

Researchers also estimated that alcohol abuse cost the criminal justice system £14.6bn, of which more than £4bn came from alcohol-related crimes.

A further £1bn cost was estimated as a result of unemployment due to alcohol abuse, and nearly £4bn was incurred through lost productivity.

Across the population, the average cost per head of alcohol harm totalled £485 a year, rising to £562 a year for people living in the north-east, the hardest-hit region.

Dr Katherine Severi, the IAS chief executive, told the paper: “As a country we cannot afford to sit back and do nothing.

“The government should develop a comprehensive alcohol strategy to tackle this rising harm, which would have a knock-on effect of reducing the financial burden too.”

But a Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson pointed to reformed alcohol duty as evidence that ministers were tackling the issue.

“Through our 10-year drug strategy, supported by £532m, we are helping up to 54,500 more people receive alcohol and drug support, and we are also funding specialist alcohol care teams in hospitals in England with the highest rates of alcohol harm and socioeconomic deprivation,” the spokesperson said.

“Last August the government also introduced reforms to alcohol duty, meaning products are taxed directly in proportion to their alcohol content, and we are reviewing the official cost of alcohol harm estimates to support us in our efforts to address the harms associated with alcohol.”

Researchers have previously warned that drinking habits developed under the Covid pandemic could result in almost one million extra hospital admissions and 25,000 deaths over the next 20 years.

A 2022 study, commissioned by NHS England, found that while lighter drinkers cut consumption at home during the pandemic, heavier drinkers drank more.

When the pubs reopened, they returned to the boozer but kept their home habit, resulting in increased alcohol-related costs for the NHS.