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Background Although moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to confer a protective effect for specific diseases, current societal patterns of alcohol use impose a huge health and economic burden on modern society. This study presents a method for estimating the health and economic burden of alcohol consumption to the UK National Health Service (NHS). Methods Previous estimates of NHS costs attributable to alcohol consumption were identified by systematic literature review. The mortality and morbidity due to alcohol consumption was calculated using information from the World Health Organization Global Burden of Disease Project and routinely collected mortality data. Direct health-care costs were derived using information on population attributable fractions for conditions related to alcohol consumption and NHS cost data. Results We estimate that alcohol consumption was responsible for 31 000 deaths in the UK in 2005 and that alcohol consumption cost the UK NHS £3.0 billion in 2005-06. Alcohol consumption was responsible for 10% of all disability adjusted life years in 2002 (male: 15%; female: 4%) in the UK. Conclusions Alcohol consumption is a considerable public health burden in the UK. The comparison of the health and economic burden of various lifestyle factors is essential in prioritizing and resourcing public health action.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Public Health

Publication Date





366 - 373