Alcohol costs Sweden 10 billion euros a year (updated with comments from Gabriel Romanus)

The economic cost of alcohol consumption in Sweden amounts to 103 billion SEK  over one year, which is almost 10 billion euros, according to a study commissioned by Systembolaget.

“The most important thing, however, is not the sum but what is hidden behind: the children who feel insecure at home because of parents who drink too much, those who are exposed to violence where alcohol has been involved and those who die prematurely due to alcohol-related illnesses and accidents,” Systembolaget states.

Systembolaget commissioned the international investigation firm Ramboll to calculate the socio-economic consequences of alcohol – both its costs and the benefits that alcohol creates.

Where are these costs coming from?

The number of alcohol-related care cases in 2017 amounted to 660,000. The cost of healthcare was SEK 7.4 billion, which corresponds to the salary cost of about 14,500 nurses. In addition to this, alcohol also costs large sums for social services, such as interventions for substance abuse treatment, financial assistance management and measures aimed at children and young people.

Every year, society loses very efficient working hours because of alcohol. Colleagues who are unable to perform at work, employees who retire due to their drinking and, in the most serious cases, employees or colleagues who die from alcohol-related illnesses and accidents. Every year, more than 625,000 alcohol-related sick leave days are taken out. And 5,200 people die from alcohol-related causes.

The police handle 162,000 alcohol-related cases each year. The alcohol-related costs of crime in society are estimated at just over SEK 9.7 billion per year. This is about as much as a quarter of the annual appropriations for the judicial system (police, criminal justice, prosecutors and the court).

Alcohol adversely affects the quality of life for a large number of people. In addition to the direct effects on the drinker, people in the vicinity are also negatively affected by other people’s drinking. Around two million people are estimated to have a relative who drinks too much, which adversely affects their quality of life. Crime victims who have been victimized by someone who was intoxicated also experience a deteriorating quality of life.


Comments from Gabriel Romanus, Honorary President of NordAN:

“In Sweden, like probably in many countries, there has been a widespread misconception that the economic effects of alcohol are positive for society. There has been reference to the beverage taxes as an income for the state, and to beneficial effects to the local society from employment in breweries and other alcohol industries.

Therefore it is important that comprehensive studies of the total effects of alcohol are made. This time by an independent firm of consultants. It shows, like a number of previous studies, that the total economic burden to society, attributed to alcohol, is several times the possible benefits, in this study about ten times greater.

Of course, the suffering caused by alcohol is more important than the economic effects, but since the misconceptions about the economic effects has been an obstacle in the debate about alcohol policy, it is important that these misconceptions now are shattered.

Let me add, that the possible economic benefits also seem to be overestimated. If people reduce their alcohol consumption, it is likely that they will spend their money on something else, that also will create employment and taxes. Maybe not in the same city where the brewery is situated, but probably another community and another company will benefit from the consumption of other goods. Also, the theory that moderate consumtion of alcohol will protect from heart problems, is now almost abandoned by seroíous reserachers.”