12 Aug 2015

Hungover Australians cost $3 billion a year

12:15 pm on 12 August 2015

Hangovers cost Australian businesses more than $3 billion a year in lost wages for sickies, researchers say.

A centre at Flinders University in Adelaide, which specialises in addiction, estimates sick leave taken by people coping with the after effects of alcohol costs $2 billion, and leave taken in the wake of other drug use amounts to $1 billion.

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Australia's drinking culture is costing business a packet. Photo: AAP

The National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction said that cost was over and above general absenteeism.

The researchers said those levels of absenteeism also increased as a worker's level of alcohol consumption went up.

The researchers said changing workplace and employee attitudes towards drinking could go a long way towards helping people avoid taking sick days as often.

Professor Ann Roche, the director of the centre led the research. Her team examined data from two questions included in the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

The first question asked respondents if they have had a day off work in the last three months because of their alcohol or drug use, and a second question asked if they had a day off work for an illness in the last three months.

The researchers then calculate the equivalent for a full 12-month period.

According to the researchers, 11.5 million sick days are taken every year by Australians suffering from the after-effects of drugs and alcohol.

"We know that people tend to be reasonably accurate, reasonably honest about these things, but if anything it's an underestimate," Professor Roche said.

And she argued it was not just young people calling in sick.

"These problems cut across the whole community," she said.

"Problems in relation to heavy consumption of alcohol and drug use tend to concentrate around the 20-year-old age groups, but these problems are spread across all age groups - the full continuum now."

Chris Raine, founder of health promotion charity Hello Sunday Morning, a group that is trying to change Australia's binge-drinking culture, said the figure was to be expected.

He said drug and alcohol abuse was often used as a crutch by people who were unhappy with their lives or their jobs.

"If someone's drinking in a way that they're waking up and wanting to chuck a sickie on Monday morning, then there's something going on there," he said.

Mr Raine said changing workplace culture around Friday afternoon drinks can also help.

"Every Friday afternoon we wheel out the drinks card or the corporate credit card behind the bar," he said.

"It's a really easy way to reward staff for the hard work that they do and that's just part of the culture that we have."

Mr Raine argues that a healthier way to reward staff could be to invest in activities like massages, yoga or team sport.

"Specifically on Friday afternoon there's a two to three afternoon window that if we got that right, as a country and as a workforce, actually that would change the whole dynamic of the way we use alcohol and drugs on the weekend," he said.