Hangovers hit the Aussie economy

Dec 11 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Hangovers cost the Australian economy some A$437 million (US$344m / 180m) a year with Australians claiming more than 2.6 million days off sick each year as a result of the morning after the night before.

A study of 13,500 Australians by Flinders University published in the Medical Journal of Australia has found that the extent and cost of alcohol-related absenteeism is far greater than had previously been estimated.

An with the Christmas party season hitting full swing, the study also warned that it isn't the heavy drinkers who take the most time off, normally-infrequent drinkers who tend to overdo things and stay home the next day are responsible for more than half of all alcohol-related sick leave.

"A large proportion of alcohol-related absenteeism is due to alcohol hangovers, which are more common for light to moderate drinkers than for heavy drinkers," the study said.

"This is due to the much larger numbers of workers who drink at these (low) levels, compared with the number of workers who frequently drink at risky or high-risk levels." Despite its hard-drinking reputation, Australia only ranks as being the 14th largest consumer of beer in the world, trailing Germany, the United Kingdom and Belgium.

Australia's absenteeism figures also pale in comparison to the scale of the problem in Britain, where some 10 million working days are lost annually to hangovers.

Add in the fact that the average British employee turns up for work with a hangover two and a half days a year, blighting a further 72 million working days and that one-in-three admit taking five days off a year because of drinking and the total cost to the UK economy has been put at a hangover-inducing 2.8bn a year.

[If only England's cricket team could demonstrate the same superiority over the Aussies]

Nevertheless, there are some advantages to drinking. As a report earlier this year by libertarian think-tank, the Reason Foundation found, drinkers earn 10 to 14 per cent more money than non-drinkers and men who drink socially, visiting a bar at least once a month, bring home an additional seven per cent in pay.