Binge drinking 'costing UK taxpayers £4.9bn'

Binge drinking Image copyright PA
Image caption Researchers said little had been known about the social and economic effects of binge drinking

Binge drinking is costing UK taxpayers £4.9bn a year, a study has suggested.

University researchers looked at factors on which binge drinking has an effect, such as A&E admissions, road accidents and police officers on duty.

The figure, from the universities of Bath and Essex, was worked out by using data from government departments.

Dr Jonathan James, of the University of Bath, said he hoped the economic calculation could "act as a catalyst for policy makers in the UK".

The report said more needed to be done to address the social factors leading to binge drinking, which it defined as the consumption of 12 or more units of alcohol in any one period of drinking, typically on a Friday or Saturday night among individuals aged 18 to 30.

'A catalyst'

The research found binge drinking increased the average daily number of injury-related admissions to A&E by 8% - equivalent to 2,504 additional daily admissions nationally.

It also caused the average number of road accidents to go up by 17% - equivalent to 82 additional accidents a day nationally - while the average number of alcohol-related arrests increased by 45%, equivalent to 786 additional arrests per day nationally.

The problems associated with binge drinking also lead to the number of police officers on duty having to be increased by around 30%, equivalent to an additional 3.2 police officers on duty at the weekend for every 10,000 people in the country, researchers said.

Dr Jonathan James, of the University of Bath, said: "Much is known about the effects and costs of sustained heavy drinking in relation to increased risks of chronic diseases, the damage to social relationships and the increased burden placed on public services.

Minimum unit pricing

"However, little is known about the economic and social effects of binge drinking.

"We hope this calculation of the economic costs can act as a catalyst for policy makers in the UK to take targeted action that reduce the cost of binge drinking to society."

The figure does not take the long-term costs of binge drinking into account, such as reduced productivity, lost employment and health problems.

The study said to offset these costs, policy recommendations such as including a 52 pence minimum unit price for alcohol and an increase in alcohol excise duty directly in line with alcohol strength should be considered.

This could see a pint of beer increase by 23 pence, and a bottle of wine by 99 pence.

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