Alcohol Risks Rise with Long Work Hours
Individuals whose working hours exceed standard recommendations are more likely to increase their alcohol use to levels that pose a health risk. This is the conclusion from a newly published report of the systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies and unpublished data.
Risky alcohol consumption is more than 14 drinks per week for women and more than 21 drinks per week for men.
According to the study, employees who work more than 48 hours per week are more likely to engage in risky alcohol consumption than those who work standard 40 hour weeks. Researchers found no heterogeneity in the tested associations based on sex, socioeconomic class, or geographic regions. This meta-analysis supports the longstanding suspicion that among workers subjected to long working hours, alcohol can seem like a fast acting and effective way to dull work related aches and pains and smooth the transition between work life and home life.
In a cross sectional analysis of 333,693 people in 14 countries, researchers found that longer working hours increased the likelihood of higher alcohol use by 11%. A prospective analysis found a similar increase in risk of 12% for onset of dangerous alcohol use in 100,602 people from nine countries. In addition, individual participant data from 18 prospective studies showed that those who worked 49-54 hours and 55 hours per week or more were found to have an increased risk of 13% and 12% respectively of risky alcohol consumption compared with those who worked 35-40 hours per week.
The team of researcher concluded:
“The workplace is an important setting for the prevention of alcohol misuse, because more than half of the adult population are employed. Further research is needed to assess whether preventive interventions against risky alcohol use could benefit from information on working hours.”
Risky alcohol consumption is also associated with difficulties in the workplace, including increased sick leave, poor performance, impaired decision-making and occupational injuries. The health and safety of the working public is essential to society. Brief interventions by healthcare personnel that involve assessment of the individual’s drinking habits in combination with feedback about health risks might be useful in efforts to reduce problems with alcohol use in the working population.