Too Much Food & Drink Costing U.S. $377 Billion Annually

CDC Announces the Annual Cost of Drinking in the United States

With all the political drama over the state of the economy—particularly who is to blame for what and how much they should have to suffer for it—two recent reports highlight the financial impact of some of our unhealthy vices.

Monday, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unveiled the results from its study on excessive alcohol consumption in the U.S. and how much it costs the country.

The CDC found that heavy drinking—which means more than one drink a day for the ladies and two drinks a day for guys—cost the U.S. $223.5 billion in 2006.

That’s a lot of money. That’s more than the total cost of natural disasters in 2005—including Hurricane Katrina damage in the southern U.S. and the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that ravaged Pakistan.

The majority (72 percent) of the drinking damage was done by lost workplace activity. That makes sense, considering that the Monday after the Super Bowl is the most common day of the year people call in “sick” to work.

So, as the CDC calculated, every drink consumed in the U.S. had an additional, hidden $1.90 tax attached to it in terms of lost money earned. Besides lost productivity, that tax accounted for healthcare costs, law enforcement expenses, and car wrecks.

While booze and its effects hurt the economy, so does being unhealthy overall.

A Gallup poll released Monday states that overweight workers with chronic health conditions cost productivity somewhere around $153 million a year. Compared to healthy workers, those with failing health miss an estimated 450 million extra days of work a year.

The easy thing to do would point to those unhealthy people—the drunks and the obese—and make them cough up their extra share, but even that would only take care of the financial pitfalls of the growing health epidemic in the country.

While the $377 billion price tag is new, what isn’t news is the fact that indulging in too many unhealthy things—junk food, alcohol, tobacco—and not enough good things—nutritious food, exercise, smart choices—leads to serious problems.

Work, productivity and money aside, these daily decisions make for a less-than-ideal living environment. It affects each and every one of us, not just in the wallet but in the overall health of our society.

Our hangovers—whether due to booze or junk food—are slowly killing us.  

Junk food, alcohol, and camping in front of the TV watching glowing images flicker across the screen all fulfill the simple need of escaping our daily lives. They’re temporary bandages to the bigger problem of a steady unhappiness in modern culture.

America is the land of bigger-is-better mentality—just look at our portion sizes—and unless we cut that out, we’re going to find ourselves living in a grim reaper paradise.

Currently, the U.S. pays $174 billion per year treating diabetes, a highly preventable disease, and should trends continue, that number could triple by 2050, according to the CDC.

Now, I don’t want to sound like one of those people wearing a sandwich board that says “the end is near,” but you’re only given one body (unless you believe in reincarnation), so you might as well take care of it.

If you’re intent on sticking with your vices, at least do something to counteract their negative effects.

Mixing in regular exercise, nutritional supplements, plenty of water (rehydrate from the booze and help flush out the extra sodium from your diet), and the occasional green item from the produce section can help combat the bad things you’re putting in it, but they won’t give you a free pass to do what you want.

But a life of slothful evenings on the couch, a regular diet of food that comes in buckets, and handles of whiskey will leave you unhealthy, costing the country a ton of money, and you with plenty to complain about.

Then again, it might get you your own reality TV show.  

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