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Impact on Society

How Does Alcohol Affect the World of a Child?


Updated February 14, 2014

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse have a far-reaching effect on society in many areas.

  • Approximately 14 million Americans – about 7.4 percent of the adult population – meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or alcoholism.1

  • More than one-half of American adults have a close family member who has or has had alcoholism.2

  • The total cost attributable to underage drinking, including costs of traffic crashes, violent crime, injuries, and treatment, is over $52 billion per year.3

  • In 1995, the estimated annual cost of alcohol abuse in the U.S. was $166.5 billion. Alcohol use disorders cost $56.7 billion more than the estimated annual economic cost of illegal drug use and $36.5 billion more than the estimated annual economic cost of smoking.4, 5

  • In 1992, the estimated productivity loss for employees with past or current alcoholism was $66.7 billion. Productivity losses were greatest for male employees who initiated drinking before age 15.4

  • Nearly 60 percent of 18-to 24-year-old current drinkers who failed to complete high school had begun to drink before age 16.6

  • In 1996, the average American drank 32 gallons of beer compared to 52 gallons of soft drinks, 24 gallons of milk, and 23 gallons of coffee.7

  • Adults who consume more than one to two alcoholic drinks per day are at risk for many health problems, including several types of cancer, digestive diseases, cardiovascular diseases, addiction-related mental disorders, accidents, and injuries.8

  • Alcohol is implicated in more than 100,000 deaths annually.9

  • In 1996, about 2 million (38 percent) of the estimated 5.3 million convicted offenders under the jurisdiction of corrections agencies were drinking at the time of the offense.10

1 Grant B.F., et al. Prevalence of DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence: United States, 1992. Alcohol Health & Research World 18(3):243-248, 1994.

2 Dawson, D.A., & Grant, B.F. Family history of alcoholism and gender: Their combined effects on DSM-IV alcohol dependence and major depression. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 59(1):97-106, 1998.

3 Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Costs of Underage Drinking. Updated edition. Prepared for the Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Program under contract no. 98-AH-F8-0114. Rockville, MD: Author, 1999.

4 Harwood, H., et al. The Economic Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in the United States, 1992. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1998.

5 U.S. Department of the Treasury. The Economic Costs of Smoking in the United States and the Benefits of Comprehensive Tobacco Legislation. Washington, DC: Author, 1998.

6 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Drinking in the United States: Main Findings from the 1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES). U.S. Alcohol Epidemiologic Data Reference Manual, Volume 6. Bethesda, MD: Author, 1998.

7 U.S. Census Bureau. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1998 (118th ed.). Washington, DC: Author, 1998.

8 U.S. Department of Agriculture, & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans (4th ed.). Washington, DC: USDA, 1995.

9 McGinnis, J.M., & Foege, W.H. Actual causes of death in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association 270(18):2207-2212, 1993.

10 U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Alcohol and Crime: An Analysis of National Data on the Prevalence of Alcohol Involvement in Crime. (NCJ-168632). Washington, DC: Author, 1998.

For information about how you can become involved with activities to stop children from drinking in your community, e-mail: Leadership@cdmgroup.com.
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