HEAVY drinking is costing the Wearside economy more than £54million a year, according to research.
A report by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, has revealed that each year in Sunderland an estimated 70,142 productive days are lost and 70,400 sick days are taken due to excessive alcohol consumption, costing the local economy £54.22million.
The study also shows that alcohol misuse costs the NHS £31.18million, crime and licensing £38.01million, with 25,259 recorded booze-fuelled incidents in the city, and social services £9.93million.
The total cost, £133.34million, is the equivalent of £470 for every man, woman and child.
Colin Shevills, director at Balance, said: “These figures demonstrate the real cost of cheap alcohol on every aspect of our society. It is essentially affecting everyone in some capacity.
“At a time when we are looking for economic growth, it is extremely frustrating that alcohol is costing our businesses and the wider economy.”
On a regional scale, alcohol misuse is costing the North East £1.1billion.
The NHS is paying out £264.49million, while the cost to crime and licensing is up to £316.50million.
The workplace and wider economy is being charged up to £404.30million and social services £106.67million.
Mr Shevills said: “Alcohol is also continuing to impact heavily on our public services.
“We have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol in the North East with the highest rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions, the highest rate of under 18s in alcohol treatment and nearly half of our crime is alcohol-related.
“Price is a significant factor in this. Supermarkets are currently selling products such as strong white cider for just 19p per unit in the North East with alcohol sometimes being sold cheaper than water.
“However it costs all of us to deal with the consequences.
“Clearing up the harm caused by the wide availability of cheap alcohol is costing every taxpayer in the North East the equivalent of £887 ever year.
“A key part of the solution will be the introduction of a minimum unit price, which the Government has backed and is set to consult on later this month. It’s a targeted measure which will increase the price of the cheapest, strongest alcohol – traditionally purchased by younger and heavier drinkers.
“Under a minimum 50p per unit, which is recommended by experts such as the British Medical Association, moderate drinkers would spend just 28p extra per week on alcohol, saving thousands of lives and preventing tens of thousands of instances of crimes.”
Nonnie Crawford, director of public health for Sunderland City Council and Sunderland Teaching Primary Care Trust, said the research raised many important issues.
“Drinking alcohol above the recommended levels puts people at greater risk of developing a range of serious health conditions, including mouth, throat and breast cancer, stroke and liver disease,” she said.
“Excessive drinking is a concern in Sunderland.
“The NHS South of Tyne and Wear’s latest lifestyle survey indicates that 36 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women in the borough binge drink, significantly above the national average, 23 per cent and 14 per cent.
“We are working hard to ensure people are aware of the damage they do to their body through regular excessive drinking and making sure services are in the place for people who need support.
“We would urge anyone who regularly consumes alcohol to keep a track on how much they are drinking and not exceed the recommended limits.”