All work and no play can turn you into an alcoholic. That’s according to a new study published in The BMJ. Workers that try to reduce the stress of the workweek with alcohol are setting themselves up for health problems in both the near-term and long-term.
The quantitative study looked at 333,693 people across 61 studies in 14 countries. People that worked 48 hours or more a week were 13 percent more likely to engage in risky drinking than people clocking in for 35 to 40 hours a week.
According to a recent Gallup survey, nearly 40 percent of Americans work 50 hours or more per week. Based on the study, there could be numerous problem drinkers out there.
The study’s research team was based in Finland, and defined risky drinking pretty liberally. For women, it is 14 or more drinks per week. Men? The level is set at 21 or more per week. I guess it gets boring in Scandinavia during the winter?
In the United States, risky drinking has a tighter definition. Women have a ceiling of 7 or more per week, and men sit at 14 or more. Regardless of the definition, we know alcohol increases risk factors for liver disease heart disease, mental disorders, cancer and stroke.
Researchers speculate in the paper about the possible causes of drinking too much. They single out possible depression and sleep problems as why the overworked may engage in risky drinking. Office culture is also singled out.
The immediate consequences of drinking too much alcohol to reduce work-related stress are numerous. Increased number of sick days, occupational injuries, impaired decision-making and poor performance can all result from alcohol.
The solution? In a perfect world, workers would be working less. The study didn’t differentiate between socioeconomic status to see if workers were struggling to make a living or living the high life. Anecdotally, I think we’re safe in assuming that workers are struggling to make ends meet.
With the middle class still not recovering from the recession, it will fall on the individual to make sure he/she avoids consuming too much alcohol. It’s hard to envision a scenario where work-days are regulated to increase the health of the worker.
Read the full study at The BMJ.