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Treating alcoholism reduces financial burden on care-givers and increases quality-adjusted life years


Correspondence to: Hans Joachim Salize, Mental Health Services Research Group, Central Institute of Mental Health, D-68159 Mannheim, Germany. E-mail:



The study assessed the alcoholism-related financial burden borne by informal care-givers and relatives of German alcoholic patients.


By using an exploratory approach, care-giver burden was assessed both prior to and 12 months after detoxification and withdrawal. Quality-of-life data for care-givers collected during follow-up were used to calculate the number of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) gained by alcoholics’ family members while their relatives are undergoing treatment.


Forty-eight informal care-givers and relatives of alcoholic patients.


In-patient and out-patient departments of three psychiatric university hospitals in Germany.


Expenditures of families related directly to the addiction disorder of alcoholic patients, quality of life of care-givers, relapses of patients.


Families’ expenditures related directly to their addicted member's alcoholism decreased from an average of €676.44 per month (or 20.2% of the total pre-tax family income) at baseline to an average of €145.40 per month at 12 months after the beginning of treatment. The average time spent caring for the affected family member was reduced from 32.3 hours per month to 8.2 hours per month (P = 0.0109), and quality-of-life total scores increased from 60.6 to 68.0. The total gain in QALYs for family members was 0.108. When weighed against the average cost of the alcoholism treatment, the cost of one QALY for care-giving family members was €20 398 on average.


Among the families of German alcoholics who receive detoxification, there is a substantial reduction in family expenditures, time spent caring and an increase in quality of life at 1 year. These are important but often neglected additional measures of the burden on family members and also treatment benefits.