The societal costs of alcohol misuse in Australia

2 Apr 2013

It is well documented that alcohol-related problems compromise individual and social health, and wellbeing. The individual harms are numerous, including premature death, loss of enjoyment and loss of social utility through fear of crime and victimisation. The misuse of alcohol, particularly among those most at risk in our community, presents a major challenge for all levels of government. In this paper, a study is presented that provides a better national-level estimate of the costs of alcohol-related problems in Australia. Despite taking a conservative estimate, the aggregate of a range of societal costs substantially outweighs the tax revenue for the Commonwealth generated from the sale of alcohol. Results of this study provide evidence to policymakers regarding costs to the criminal justice system, costs to the health system, costs resulting from lost productivity and costs related to alcohol-related road accidents. Such evidence will provide an understanding of the economic tradeoffs that are present when making decisions that affect all Australians. Proposals are provided in the conclusion for a greater investment in prevention, based on the sound evaluation of prevention and diversion strategies by comparison with treatment options, in order to ensure better investments for the nation.

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