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The cost of alcohol to individuals, our relationships, workplaces and public services.

Woman drinking wine and thinking about alcohol


Alcohol Awareness Week run by Alcohol Change UK takes place from 3-9 July and this time the theme is 'Alcohol and cost'. The harm caused by alcohol misuse affects millions of people every year in the form of physical and mental health problems, financial difficulties, and relationship breakdowns. Alcohol misuse has also huge social and economics costs with the significant pressure that is placed on the NHS, the emergency services, police, as well as workplaces.

In England, over 10 million people consume alcohol at levels above the UK CMOs’ low-risk drinking guidelines and increase their risk of alcohol-related ill health.

Alcohol and mental health

There are close links between alcohol and mental health, and our drinking habits can affect our wellbeing. Some people may drink to mask or reduce symptoms of mental-ill health but this can lead to dependency and cause further mental health problems. Alcohol affects the central nervous system and is strongly associated with anxiety and depression.

Depressed man having problems with drinking alcohol

Alcohol and PHYSICAL health

Excessive and long-term alcohol consumption can affect your body in numerous ways. It can increase your risk of developing vascular dementia and having a heart attack or stroke. Alcohol can also cause gastritis and stomach ulcers, as well as it can lead to fatty liver and inflammation or scarring of the liver.

Find out more: Alcohol and your body

Alcohol and relationships

Drinking regularly or heavily can damage relationships with our loved ones and lead to breakups, estranged marriages or lost friendships. It can alter both our mood, inhibition and behaviour affecting the way how we interact with those around us. Alcohol can cause arguments, create tension, and give us the sense of being disconnected from the others.

Couple having an argument because of alcohol

social and economic impact

The social and economic burden of alcohol is substantial and it's related both to tangible, direct costs such as costs to the NHS, criminal justice and welfare systems, and indirect costs including the costs of lost productivity due to absenteeism, unemployment, or lost working years due to premature pension or death.

Estimates show that the social and economic costs of alcohol related harm amount to £21.5bn.

ALCOHOL MISUSE in the workplace

Alcohol misuse can affect organisations and companies, regardless of how large or small they are. It can cause several workplace issues such as absenteeism, presenteeism, inappropriate behaviour, as well as safety concerns. Therefore, it’s crucial to address the issue of alcohol misuse in order to promote workplaces’ productivity, health and safety, as well as employees’ wellbeing.

Man drinking alcohol at work

Managing drug and alcohol misuse at work: Guidance for line managers on providing support and dealing with disclosures guide from CIPD provides advice for line managers on how to deal with a disclosure or suspicion of a drug or alcohol problem among the employees. It aims to make line managers feel more confident discussing these sensitive issues and guide them how to provide appropriate support for employees.

Health at work: Alcohol Awareness toolkit from British Heart Foundation aims to give employers ideas, tools and advice they need to organise successful wellbeing initiatives to alcohol awareness in your workplace.


Workplace alcohol screening can be an important part of any HSE program and it is especially crucial in safety-critical employment roles, for example when employees are using machinery, electrical equipment and ladders, driving or operating heavy equipment. Testing should be used and presented as a supportive tool to help identify any employee who might cause harm to themselves or others. If you would like to to consider alcohol screening at your workplace, get in touch with us and we will help you organise this through our Drug & Alcohol Screening Service.


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