It is commonly accepted that long working hours and elevated stress levels can take a toll on a person’s health. Research now suggests that there may be also be a strong link between working long hours and excessive drinking.
According to a comprehensive international study published in the British Medical Journal earlier this year, individuals who work 48 hours or more per week are more likely to excessively drink by 11 percent compared to individuals who work the standard week of roughly 35 to 40 hours.
The data was gathered from an in-depth analysis of 61 studies comprised of over 330,000 people from 14 different countries – including Australia, UK, Germany, and the United States.
The international study was the first to reveal how individuals are more likely to acquire risky drinking habits due to working longer hours; with risky levels being defined as 21 drinks a week for men and 14 drinks a week for women.
People were 13 percent more likely to start drinking at higher levels when working 49 to 54 hours every week. It also showed that the chances of developing a drinking problem were 12 percent higher among people who moved to a more stressful job during the course of the study.
The study failed to find a distinction between income levels, geographic locations, and between white-collar and blue-collar jobs. In other words, both a high-level CEO and a factory worker could lean towards increased alcohol consumption after putting in long work hours regularly.
Why is there even a relationship between working hard and drinking excessively?
Researchers suggest that individuals attracted to competitive jobs requiring long hours have the same personalities that make them heavy drinkers. These people may be attracted to the “work hard, play hard” mentality, and are often those who like novelty and taking risks. According to some experts, workers use alcohol to help overcome the stresses of work. Critics, however, are quick to point out that one factor does not necessarily result in the other.
While the study helps support the European Union Working Time Directive that encourages employees to work no more than 48 hours each week, many workers ignore the directive and continue to put in 50 hours of work or more per week in order to get overtime pay or get promoted faster.
Many jobs across the U.S. require employees to work long hours and deal with high stress levels. Since 1979, the total number of middle-income and professional men and women working over 50 hours a week has been increasing. Unfortunately, there are very few policies that regulate work hours at the moment, and enacting such laws would be very difficult.
The study shows that alcohol abuse comprises approximately 46 percent of lost workplace productivity in the country. In one survey, one-third of the respondents admitted having come to work with a hangover, while 15 percent reported being drunk while at work. Companies may therefore benefit from helping their workers address or prevent developing alcohol issues through offering healthy lifestyle programs in the workplace or avoiding serving alcohol at work-related functions.
Source: People Who Work Long Hours Are More Likely To Drink Dangerously, published on https://www.businessinsider.com/connection-between-working-and-drinking-2015-1.