Hungover at Work? You’re Costing the U.S. Economy $77 Billion

Source: iStock

Hitting the bar on a Wednesday night seemed like a good idea at the time, but now it’s Thursday morning and you have a splitting headache, a bad case of dry mouth, and are facing a long, long day at the office.

You’re not the only one paying a price for last night’s overindulgence. Excessive drinking cost the United States economy $249 billion in 2010, or $807 per person, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That includes the cost of drunk driving accidents, money spent on treating alcoholism, care for children with fetal alcohol syndrome, crime, and other consequences of hitting the bottle too hard. But lost productivity did the most economic damage.

Employees who show up to work hungover suck roughly $77 billion every year from the American economy, according to the study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. People who called in sick because they were too drunk or hungover to function cost another $4.6 billion.

The overall annual cost of drinking was up by $25.5 billion since 2006, according to the CDC. Binge drinking did the most economic damage, with an annual tab of roughly $191 billion. The CDC defines binge drinking as having five or more drinks per occasion for men or more than four at a time for women.

Not only does alcohol abuse cost the economy billions of dollars each year, but the CDC says its estimates may actually be on the low side. That’s because the data only took into account situations where alcohol was the primary cause of the financial loss, not cases where booze merely played a contributing role. Intangible costs like pain and suffering also weren’t included.

friends, bar, happy hour
Source: iStock

Americans aren’t the only ones who are paying a big price for getting blitzed. Hungover Australians take 11.5 million sick days every year, and those alcohol-related absences cost their economy $3 billion annually. In the U.K., lost productivity related to alcohol use costs £7.3 billion a year.

The CDC predicts that the costs of excessive boozing are only going to go up unless steps are taken to encourage people to drink less. Higher alcohol taxes, limiting the number of bars and liquor stores in a given area, and screenings and interventions for alcohol abuse are all strategies that the CDC recommends but says have not been consistently or effectively implemented.

Clearly, drinking less (or not drinking at all) is a surefire way to reduce economic damage done by alcohol. But is there a way to reduce the pain of a hangover after the fact? Sadly, most hangover “cures” are nothing more than snake oil.

“Virtually nothing is proven to ameliorate the effects of a hangover,” physician Peter Mills told the The Telegraph. That said, there are some things you can do to get through the day after a night of hard drinking.

Drinking plenty of water, eating bland foods like toast or crackers, and popping an over-the-counter pain reliever (avoid acetaminophen, which can damage your liver) can all help alleviate the symptoms of a hangover, according to the Mayo Clinic. Or you could try IV therapy from a company like The Hangover Club, which promises to make your headache and shakiness disappear by pumping your body full of vitamins, electrolytes, and drugs to put a stop to your pain and nausea. (Doctors disagree about whether these treatments are any more effective than getting rest and drinking water, though.)

But until scientists finally perfect hangover-free beer (they’re working on it, really), you may just have to suffer through your day – and resolve to be more responsible the next time you hit happy hour.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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