What's in a drink? Economic, social costs explained in new study

What’s the true cost of drinking alcohol? One new study aimed to find out.

Excessive drinking cost Minnesotans $7.85 billion in 2019, according to a new study from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

In what won’t be a surprising conclusion to many, the study found that the greatest financial cost fell on those who drink excessively as well as their families, plus government and health insurance providers. 

"Excessive drinking can significantly affect individual health, but it also has a cost for families, communities, and the health care system," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm in a statement announcing the study. "The financial burden is staggering, and of course there are additional psychological and societal impacts and harms in addition to those measured here. It’s important that we acknowledge these impacts and find ways to mitigate them."

The total financial cost equals $1,383 per Minnesota resident through lost productivity, healthcare costs, and other costs such as those related to criminal justice and motor vehicle crashes. For each alcoholic drink purchased, people in Minnesota experience an impact cost equivalent of $2.86, according to the study.

Excessive drinking includes "binge drinking," which is defined as four or more drinks on an occasion for women, and five or more drinks for men and "heavy drinking" – eight or more drinks per week for women, 15 or more drinks per week for men.