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Workaholics More Likely to Consume Alcohol

Jan 14, 2015 05:20 PM EST

Workaholics, that is, people who work more than 48 hours per week, are more likely to engage in risky alcohol consumption compared to employees who work standard hours, a new study says.

Risky alcohol consumption is defined as downing more than 14 drinks per week for women, and more than 21 drinks per week for men. Such behavior is reportedly linked to an increased risk of health problems, including liver diseases, cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease, mental disorders, and now alcohol consumption.

A 40-hour work week is seen as the norm, but those looking to get ahead to achieve that promotion or get a raise tend to work much longer hours than required, sometimes pushing on 50 hours per week. Some may choose to turn to alcohol to relieve their stress from work, but risky consumption can also backfire, leading to increased sick leave, poor performance, impaired decision-making and occupational injuries.

Reported in The British Medical Journal, researchers conducted a cross-sectional analysis of 333,693 people in 14 countries, and found that longer working hours increased the likelihood of higher alcohol use by 11 percent. Likewise, a similar analysis found that longer working hours increased risky alcohol consumption by 12 percent, in studying 100,602 people from nine countries.

Most importantly, employees who worked 49-54 hours and 55 hours per week or more had an increased risk of alcohol consumption by 13 and 12 percent, respectively - that is, compared with those who only worked the standard 35-40 hours per week.

"The workplace is an important setting for the prevention of alcohol misuse, because more than half of the adult population are employed," the researchers wrote. "Further research is needed to assess whether preventive interventions against risky alcohol use could benefit from information on working hours."

Currently, the European Union Working Time Directive (EUWT) recommends that its employees work no more than 48 hours per week, to protect the health and safety of the workforce.

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