Alcohol and Debt – What Are the Problems & Effects
15th August 2017
Drinking can be expensive. This much is obvious, but there are other, more subtle connections between alcohol consumption and falling into debt than might first appear. Excessive drinking is often a marker of other problems, which a person might try to deal with through the consumption of alcohol, yet it can also become a problem in its own right.
Debt and excessive alcohol consumption can work together in a vicious cycle, whether this is alcohol consumption leading to debt, or problems with debt leading to alcohol dependence. In either case, alcohol is one important influence leading people to resort to a formal debt solution such as a Trust Deed.
How are Alcohol and Debt Connected?
The relatively high cost of alcohol means that being dependent on it can contribute to an individual falling into debt. However, other, less obvious connections between debt and alcohol can also be seen.
The depressant effect which alcohol has on the brain generally results in poorer judgement, causing a person to impulsively make decisions they would not normally make.
The so-called “beer goggle” effect can influence purchasing decisions as well as social ones! A series of impulse purchases, which seemed like sound investments under the influence of alcohol, could, clearly, have an impact on a person’s level of debt.
As well as this, excessive alcohol consumption can, in both the long and short term, have a knock-on effect on productivity in the work-place.
Frequent hangovers are likely to increase the number of sick days a person takes from their job, especially since excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to supress the immune system.
If the person does make it into work, both flu and hangover symptoms can severely decrease productivity. This phenomenon, dubbed “presenteeism”, can affect a person’s chance of progressing in their career if it continues to impede their performance over a longer period of time.
High numbers of sick days and poor productivity can add to a reduced income, making it easier for the person to fall into debt. In some cases, a person might resort to borrowing money in order to fund their drinking habit – forming a more direct connection between debt and alcohol.
Alcohol Consumption can be triggered by other Problems
Many people who have struggled with alcohol addiction describe drinking as a way to deal with other problems in their life. It is common to utilise alcohol’s effects on the brain as a way to mitigate the stress which life can entail. One such problem is unmanageable debt.
The significant connections between debt and mental health have been addressed in earlier blog posts, but the fact that most people struggling with debt notice its impact on their mental health does bear repeating.
Anxiety, usually caused by harassing calls and letters from creditors, is one of the most widely-reported symptoms triggered by debt. It is also a symptom which commonly leads to alcohol consumption.
Alcohol is a depressant, so it can reduce feelings of anxiety for a short time. However, the charity Drinkaware reports that over a longer period of time, consuming alcohol can actually cause anxiety and depression, because of the way it interacts with the brain.
On top of this, consuming alcohol has a negative impact on sleep quality, which is also extremely important to staying mentally healthy. Mental ill-health can negatively affect a person’s ability to earn and manage money – if excessive alcohol consumption can trigger mental health issues, it can also trigger problems with debt.
Alcohol Problems in the UK
The connections between alcohol and debt is especially important in the UK, where excessive drinking is a common issue. The Foundation for Liver Research have predicted that 63,000 people will die in England alone over the next five years from alcohol-related liver disorders.
This prediction has led the director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, Katherine Brown, to accuse the government of not doing enough to limit the negative effects which alcohol can have.
One simple way to reduce the consumption of alcohol is to increase its price. Anne Ludbrook, a professor of Health Economics at the University of Aberdeen, is an advocate of introducing a minimum price per unit for alcohol sales in the UK.
A similar programme has been rolled out in Canada, which has led to a reduction in alcohol-related hospital admissions there. Ludbrook states that “the connection between heavy drinking and cheap alcohol is well-documented”, and believed that increasing the price of the cheapest alcoholic drinks will reduce the amount that current heavy drinkers consume.
However, this idea is not without its problems. For a person who is truly addicted, there is a worry that increasing the price of alcohol will not prevent them from purchasing it, and only act to increase the amount they spend.
This in itself has the potential to plunge those struggling with alcohol addiction into debt, and might even lead to them spending money formerly earmarked for essential living costs.
If you think that you or a loved one might be struggling with alcohol addiction, or simply want to cut back, Drinkaware have some helpful resources which can be found here.