Working long hours linked to increased alcohol consumption

REUTERS/John Kolesidis

Employees who work 48 hours or more per week will likely consume more alcohol, according to a recent study released by the British Medical Journal.

Researchers looked at the drinking habits of 330,000 people from 14 countries in their study, and linked long hours of work to greater levels of alcohol consumption among workers. 

According to the review published by the British Medical Journal, the study found that 11 per cent of those who work more than the average 40 hours per week have a higher incidence of risky alcohol use. Risky consumption means 14 or more drinks for women and 21 or more drinks for men in a week. 

The group who worked between 49 to 54 hours per week showed the biggest risk of alcohol consumption. The small percentage rise in alcohol use might seem insignificant between these groups, but this equates to 2 million among the 14 countries represented.  The results are the same regardless of the groups' geographical location and economic status in life, Washington Post reports.

Researchers found that demanding jobs, erratic schedules, and existing sleeping problems among the workers were also factors in risky alcohol consumption, and concluded that alcohol consumption is one way workers are choosing to relieve stress. 

According to Jena McGregor of The Washington Post, "The result of the research is a grim and dreary assessment of the impact our jobs can have on our health.

"Perhaps some companies will see this research and think about adding alcohol awareness seminars to their wellness programs, or turning the holiday party dry or putting a stop to frequent happy hours. But the most important thing companies could do to help — making real changes that encourage shorter hours — is even less likely to make the top of their list."

Cassandra Okechukwu of the Harvard School of Public Health echoed the same sentiment in her editorial and suggested employers have a role to play in encouraging healthy drinking habits among their workforce.

"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," she said.