Hard Workers Could be at Higher Risk of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol can be dangerous if misused, and while many see alcohol poisoning as the biggest danger of drinking, the slower, more gradual effects of consistent drinking over a long period of time can be just as destructive, much more common, and harder to spot. Those who unwind after a long day of work with a couple drinks may not realize it, but just a couple of drinks a night can add up quickly. A new analysis of over 300,000 people shows that people who work more hours a week may be more likely to fall into this destructive pattern. In a country with free government health insurance and free health insurance for kids, could our employers be doing more to keep us healthy?

The data assessed for this study was gathered from 333,693 people, to be exact, and those people hailed from 14 different countries to ensure that cultural differences were accounted for. Researchers organized the data in the hopes of finding a correlation between long work hours and alcohol abuse, and they found just that. The data shows that employees who work more hours are significantly more likely to abuse alcohol than their less busy peers.

By the numbers, the study found that individuals included in this 333,693-person sample group who worked more than 48 hours a week were approximately 13% more likely to drink in excess when compared to workers that only clock in for 35 to 40 hours weekly. This study defined “drinking in excess” as more than 21 drinks per week for males and 14 per week for females.

Taking data from 14 different countries helped rule out cultural differences, and the indiscriminate nature of this study also showed that socioeconomic status has little to no bearing on how work hours impact drinking habits. Alcohol consumption was even across all classes and social groups, further supporting the idea that the link is between work hours and alcohol, not some unseen factor.

You may be wondering how big of an issue this really is, and rightfully so. Well, according to a 2014 Gallup poll, nearly 40% of Americans work more than 50 hours a week at their full-time job, and even salaried workers spend, on average, over 45 hours a week working. If these statistics can be reliably applied to America at large, it could mean that tens of millions of Americans are drinking enough to be a health risk, and with a 13% higher risk for full-time workers, it’s hard to ignore the impact long hours may be having.

“Risky drinking” can lead to sleep loss and all of its symptoms, which inherently make for less productive workers, so the real question lies in how employees and employers can work to create a more productive, less stressful work environment and, hopefully, decrease employees’ risk of abusing alcohol, leading to a more positive work environment and more efficiency. Work places would do well to pay close attention to employees, for instance, monitoring their productivity over longer work days as opposed to productivity of workers who don’t spend as much time at the office. Since excessive drinking has been linked to liver disease, heart disease, mental disorders, and cancer, it’s an important issue that must be addressed.

How do you feel employers could change workflow to accommodate more productivity and less risk? How can employees adapt to longer hours without increasing their risk of alcohol abuse? Share your opinions with us in the comments section below!