Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a growing concern for employers. An estimated 1 in 11 full-time workers in the US meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder.¹ Before we dive into how this affects companies, you might be wondering, what is AUD? Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition characterized by drinking more than you want and for longer than you want, despite wanting to cut down. It’s a diagnosable medical condition that can be treated with evidence-based care. While treatment has been proven to work, fewer than 10% of people who meet the criteria for AUD end up receiving care.²
AUD takes a toll on employee’s health, and can also drive high costs for companies. Let’s break down some of the most common costs associated with AUD, and see why providing resources for your employees to address their drinking can benefit them and your organization at large.
The Cost of Alcohol Use Disorder for Employers
Here are some of the most common financial factors related to alcohol use that impact companies.
Alcohol use disorder can lead to an increase in absenteeism, which can increase expenses related to paid time off and lost productivity. A study from Washington University in St. Louis demonstrated that alcohol use disorder is linked to over 232 million missed workdays each year.³ The causes for absenteeism include alcohol-related illness, injury, or simply lack of motivation to attend work.
2. Decreased Productivity
AUD can also impact presenteeism. Alcohol-related consequences, like hangovers and alcohol-related sleep problems, can impact the state of mind of employees arrive with, and consequently lower productivity. Many people remark on their increased energy levels, mental clarity, and overall increased productivity once they change their relationship with alcohol.
3. Higher Health Care Costs
Unhealthy alcohol use is a known contributor to over 200 disease and injury conditions, including liver disease, heart disease, and cancer.⁴ Many companies are seeing this reality reflected in their healthcare claims. A recent report in JAMA showed that alcohol use disorder cost employer-sponsored plans $10.2 billion in 2018 alone.⁵ By making alcohol-specific support available, employers can reduce the associated long-term health issues.
4. Higher Turnover Rates
A study done at The University of Chicago found that turnover rates for employees with active substance use disorders (SUDs) were higher in most industries. Importantly, workers who recovered from a substance use disorder did not experience higher turnover rates, in fact many of these employees in recovery had even lower turnover rates than their peers with no SUD history. With the rising cost of turnover, this underlines the importance of making treatment accessible.
5. Legal Costs
Alcohol use is one of the leading causes of injuries and accidents in the workplace. In many cases, these incidents can lead to legal action against the company. Making support available to employees can reduce the risk of injuries and accidents, and consequently any associated legal fees.
Of course, there’s a non-monetary cost associated with alcohol use disorder. The wellbeing and happiness of your employees is paramount, and receiving the right care can be truly life-changing for someone struggling with their alcohol use. Partnering with an online alcohol treatment platform like Monument is an effective way to both reduce costs and demonstrate your company’s commitment to employee health.
- National Library of Medicine. “2010 National and State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26477807/.” Accessed March 23, 2023.
- Alcohol Clin Exp Res. “A Cascade of Care for Alcohol Use Disorder: Using 2015–2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Data to Identify Gaps in Past 12-Month Care, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8254783/.” Accessed March 23, 2023.
- Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “In U.S., alcohol use disorder linked to 232 million missed workdays annually, https://medicine.wustl.edu/news/in-u-s-alcohol-use-disorder-linked-to-232-million-missed-workdays-annually/.” Accessed March 23, 2023.
- WHO. “Alcohol, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/alcohol.” Accessed March 23, 2023.
- JAMA Network. “Medical Costs of Substance Use Disorders in the US Employer-Sponsored Insurance Population, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2800719.” Accessed March 23, 2023.