Alcohol-Related Harms and Societal Costs

Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for premature death and disability, including many acute and chronic conditions, and can lead to economic and social burdens that extend beyond the drinker. 

Mortality and Morbidity

Even in low and moderate amounts, drinking alcohol increases the risk of chronic diseases, such as various cancers, and coronary heart disease, illnesses, injuries and disabilities, and causes harms that extend beyond the drinker to include family, friends and the larger community. Estimates of alcohol-related morbidity and mortality rates also consider quantity and frequency of consumption to determine how drinking affects a person’s health. 


Alcohol use has significant social and economic costs measured by premature deaths, poor quality of life, disability-adjusted life years, lost earnings and productivity and the burden placed on health care, enforcement and the criminal justice system. These costs, when assigned a dollar value, far exceed revenue generated from alcohol taxes and sales, and provide a clearer understanding of alcohol’s burden on society as a whole. 

Alcohol Use Disorders

Chronic alcohol consumption at high, or in some cases, even moderate levels has significant detrimental effects on health, both physical and psychological. It can lead to alcohol use disorders, a chronic condition sometimes associated with co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression. Treatment involves psychosocial and behavioral therapies and medication. Research on treating alcohol use disorders is complex, involving issues such as access to care, relapse, cost and organization of services, treatment effectiveness, and mutual help and recovery services.