Calling all cliches: Costing the country

Barely a week passes without the media breathlessly reporting a study that reveals how much a particular activity or condition is ‘costing the country’. Obviously these figures aren’t simply plucked from the air; we’re confident that they’re carefully worked out, and that the evidence for them is unimpeachable. To the untrained eye, it may seem a bit odd that in 2014 it was reported that obesity cost the country £5 billion, and yet by 2016 the cost of ‘treating fat people‘ had shot up to £16 billion a year – but that can’t be taken as reflecting on the quality of the research.

So, as a service to those of our readers who may have missed the news, here’s a quick run-down of some recent revelations, listed in no particular order:

Sleep-deprived workers are costing the UK economy £40 billion a year and face a higher risk of death, says a new study.’

Drug trafficking into Britain costs the country an estimated £10.7 billion per year, according to the National Crime Agency.’

‘With [Theresa] May herself pointing out that mental illness costs the country £102 billion…’

‘[Dr Adnan] Al-Kaisy reckons that in the UK the incidence of chronic lower back pain has increased substantially in the last 15 to 20 years, and that “the cost in lost working days is about £6 to 7 billion”.’

‘Experts estimate that [tax] avoidance costs the country up to £10 billion per year.’

‘The study, conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute, said the UK’s “obesity crisis” costs almost £47 billion every year. It comes second only to the £57 billion annual toll smoking takes on the economy, it found.’

‘The loss of women’s lives due to domestic abuse costs the country over £14 million a month.’

Epilepsy ‘costs the country £1.5 billion a year’.

‘Evidence shows that poverty in the UK is causing harm and costing the country £78 billion every year.’

‘A surge in smartphone and tablet use is costing the country more than £900 million a year just to keep the devices powered, it has been revealed.’

‘Unfortunately however, [Christmas] is also the time when we waste the most, as during the seasonal week, 230,000 tonnes of food is thrown into waste bins throughout the country. That’s equivalent of 74 million mince pies — costing the country an extra £275 million.’

Car park charges at hospitals have been blasted as “a tax on sick people” by a patients’ group. The criticism comes in response to figures showing the fees bring in around £200 million a year in England.’

Binge drinking costs Britain £4.9 billion every year.’

‘The report also says that the UK’s digital skills gap costs the country £63 billion in lost GDP, every year.’

‘Britain’s roads are grinding to a halt because of the huge number of traffic lights, speed bumps and cycle lanes… Experts have worked out that if the overall result of all the measures is a two-minute delay to the average journey, the total cost to the economy is £16 billion a year.’

Male suicide costs the country £20 million per day. A cost which excludes suicide attempts.’

‘Since 2001, Fathers4Justice has been campaigning to end the cancer of family breakdown and fatherlessness and the devastating impact this has on children, families and society as a whole. It’s a situation that costs the country £49 billion every year.’

‘Apparently, 1.8 million of UK’s businesses have been victims of a cyber-attack, and that costs the country’s economy more than £147  billion, in the last year alone.’

‘According to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, black market alcohol costs the country £1.2 billion in unpaid duty, while the treasury loses £2 billion a year due to smuggled tobacco.’


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