23.11.2023 - Alcohol caused Finnish society costs of at least approximately 1.4 billion euros in 2022. This figure includes the combined costs of alcohol-related deaths, disabilities, treatments, and crimes. Additionally, the loss of labor due to alcohol led to estimated economic losses of at least 500 million euros for Finnish employers.
These findings emerge from the newly published report, "Numbers Speak 2: The Impact of Alcohol on Finnish Workplaces – How Much It Costs, How It Manifests, and How to Reduce It."
The report was authored by Research Director Niilo Luotonen from Aalto University. It was commissioned by Alko, the Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention (EHYT ry), and the Centre for Occupational Safety. In addition to assessing costs, the report explores how harms manifest in different work communities and how they can be mitigated.
The cost of alcohol's adverse effects is closely linked to working life and employers. These costs arise from reduced workforce participation and the additional work generated for others, such as healthcare and the legal system. Moreover, costs are incurred when a portion of the work's value is diverted to early retirement and sickness benefits caused by alcohol. Alcohol-related harms also reduce workers' productivity and output.
"Work community and culture genuinely seem to matter. Studies have shown that risky alcohol use is associated with, for example, job stress, poor leadership, and drinking norms within the work community," says Luotonen.
EHYT ry first commissioned the "Numbers Speak" report in 2018. The current report, which relied on the methods of the previous study, was produced to reexamine the numbers, focusing mainly on the costs to employers from alcohol-related harms.
A decrease in costs between 2018–2022 has been influenced by a reduction in per capita consumption, affected partly by increased alcohol taxes. However, the number of alcohol-related deaths, treatment periods, and crimes has also increased in some years, even as consumption has decreased.
"Even if alcohol consumption decreases, not all alcohol-related harms will necessarily reduce," states Luotonen.
Substance Abuse Program Linked to Lower Alcohol-Related Harms Prevention emphasizes existing substance abuse programs and community-level actions, as detailed in the report.
The mere presence of a substance abuse program is associated with lower alcohol-related harms. Research indicates that risky drinking and alcohol dependency are generally less prevalent in workplaces with a substance abuse program. The program outlines the workplace's policies and guidelines for addressing substance abuse.
"Increasing the availability of alcohol by allowing the sale of stronger alcoholic beverages in grocery stores is not advisable. The harms are already this significant socially, even with current preventive measures," says Marika Vartiainen, Department Head at EHYT ry.
Assessments of drinking habits, feedback, and independently conducted training and exercise programs have reduced alcohol consumption among heavy drinkers at work. Evidence also supports the economic viability of these interventions for employers.
Source: EHYT ry