Economists estimate national savings if Australians were to cut alcohol consumption

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 21st May 2012

A study from Deakin University, in Melbourne, in conjunction with the National Stroke Research Institute has certified the national economic savings and health benefits could be achieved if Australian adults cut their alcohol consumption by 3.4 litres a year.

Deakin University health economists, working with researchers from the National Stroke Research Institute, modelled the likely outcomes of a drop in alcohol intake from the average 9.8 litres per adult per year to 6.4 litres. They looked at economic and health impacts as well as the effect on workforce productivity, household duties (such as cooking, shopping, cleaning, child care and maintenance) and leisure time.

The study found that a 3.4 litre cut per adult per year could result in a AU$789 million annual saving to the health sector and in one third fewer cases of alcohol related disease (such as alcohol dependence, suicides, injuries and cancers), deaths and working days lost.

It also found potential cost savings AU$427 million in workforce productivity and AU$21 million in home-based productivity. These savings were due to 98,000 (35 per cent) less cases of disease and 380 (38 per cent) less deaths related to long term high risk levels of alcohol consumption and 21,000 (34 per cent) less healthy years of life lost  as a result of this risk factor.

The results also showed five million fewer working days lost and a drop of 54,000 lost days of household duties would be possible.

However the results were not all positive, with the researchers estimating a potential 1000 additional early retirements because the data showed that high risk drinkers reported staying in the workforce longer than lower risk drinkers.

Deakin’s Senior Research Fellow Anne Magnus said, “Through this study we calculated the potential economic and health benefits if a realistic reduction in alcohol consumption were achieved, which is an important consideration in light of the current political and policy interest in Australia, and overseas.

“We found that considerable economic and health benefits could be gained if Australian adults drank an average of five standard drinks less each week. This is equivalent to three-four less glasses (150 ml) of wine or four-six less cans (375ml) of beer (full to light strength respectively) each week.”