Social costs of alcohol high in N.S., internal report says
Health minister says trend alarming, will take time to consider action
An internal report prepared by the Nova Scotia government reveals that revenue from selling booze is easily eclipsed by how much is spent on alcohol-related health, hospital and police costs.
The report was obtained by CBC News and shows Nova Scotians drinking more than most Canadians.
The report was prepared by health department staff two years ago, but never released. It uses data from 2002 onward and provides an overview of how much Nova Scotians drink and the effect on their health.
One of the conclusions is that alcohol-related direct and indirect social costs were nearly $500 million in 2006, more than double the revenue from alochol brought in to the government.
Health minister Leo Glavine says there needs to be a cultural shift in how Nova Scotians treat booze.
"To see that that we have trends which are really quite alarming, that's probably what the report confirms," he said.
Some of the findings include:
- In 2007-2008, 38.9 per cent of males and 17.5 per cent of females drank heavily at least once a month. During the same period, 17.9 per cent of males and seven per cent of females engaged in weekly heavy drinking.
- Heavy drinking is particularly high with young adults. In 2004, the usual consumption pattern for more than half of Nova Scotia undergraduates students when they drank was five drinks or more. More than a quarter drank heavily once a week.
- The average age of a persona taking their first drink was under 13 years old.
- Girls are now drinking as much as boys.
- Alcohol related mortality increased by 27 per cent from 2002 to 2008. In 2008, 231 Nova Scotians died from alcohol-related causes.
- The proportion of car crashes causing serious injury in Nova Scotia, and which involved impaired driving, is significantly higher than Canadian rates.
The report also concludes the number of liquor stores, bars and restaurants serving alcohol increased. The number of retail outlets jumped 65 per cent between 2000 and 2009.
Glavine won’t say what he will do to combat alcohol problems. He said he’s new to the job and needs time to consider the best course.
Costs of alcohol in Nova Scotia
|Total direct costs||$242,931,515|
|Productivity loss due to disability||$214,873,294|
|Productivity loss from premature mortality||$34,732,943|
|Total indirect costs||$249,606,237|
|Revenues (2006)||$224.2 million|