In a world as highly competitive as the one we live in today, working more hours than usual has become the norm. For many employees, 12-hour days are typical. The hours become even longer when there are deadlines to beat or presentations to polish. It has become common for workers with families to come home to a house where everyone is already asleep by the time they get there, and everything just seems all right.
While there is nothing wrong with long work hours per se, no one can deny that working long hours brings with it a lot of stress. All that stress may take its toll on the worker sooner or later. In some cases, the stress due to long hours could trigger excessive alcohol intake among workers. At least that’s what a recent study published in the BMJ is saying.
Long hours, higher likelihood of excessive drinking
The study, conducted by an international team of researchers, has discovered that people who work long hours are more likely to begin drinking harder. The research team reached the conclusion that 49 or more hours of work per week makes a person 12 to 13 percent more likely to begin risky alcohol use. The study, which took a close look at data from 63 previous studies featuring more than 300,000 participants, defines risky alcohol use as 21 drinks a week for men and 14 drinks a week for women, which, no matter how you look at it, seems to be quite a lot of alcohol.
The results didn’t surprise Marianna Virtanen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health professor and leader of the international research team. She said that previous studies have already shown that higher stress levels, sleep problems, and distress symptoms are common in people who work long hours, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Study studied scores of other studies
Data from 63 previous studies which included over 300,000 respondents were analysed by the research team and found out that people who worked longer hours were 11 percent more likely to over-imbibe alcohol. Another 20 studies from nine countries, this time with more than 100,000 participants, were also looked at by the researchers, and they concluded that working longer hours makes people 12 percent more likely to start drinking more heavily. The results that establish a link between long working hours and excessive alcohol drinking were the same across all genders, ages, countries of origin, or socioeconomic status.
For many workers, getting a drink or two after a long, hard day at work is nothing more than just a quick way of relaxing before heading home. Alcohol, after all, does have a dulling effect on the mental and physical stresses that long work hours bring. However, employees who do this need to not get carried away and must keep their workplace alcohol policy in mind. For all the stress that working long hours can do to a person, one must remember that becoming dependent on alcohol will create a whole new world of stress that’s even harder to manage.