People Who Work Long Hours Drink a Lot

Photo: AMC

People who work longer hours tend to drink more than people who keep a lighter work schedule, says a multinational study led by Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. The paper was published online this week in the British Medical Journal, and it’s open access, which means you can read it for free if you’d like.

Here’s a rundown of the methodology, via the press release accompanying the article:

In a cross sectional analysis of 333,693 people in 14 countries, they found that longer working hours increased the likelihood of higher alcohol use by 11%. A prospective analysis found a similar increase in risk of 12% for onset of risky alcohol use in 100,602 people from 9 countries.

Individual participant data from 18 prospective studies showed that those who worked 49-54 hours and 55 hours per week or more were found to have an increased risk of 13% and 12% respectively of risky alcohol consumption compared with those who worked 35-40 hours per week.

Two things worth pointing out: The authors’ definition of “long hours” at work as more than 48 hours per week will probably seem laughably low to some people; for that matter, the number of drinks in a week that constitutes “risky alcohol consumption” might seem low to some, too. More than 14 drinks for women and 21 drinks for men over the course of a week is considered problematic, according to drinking guidelines set by the International Centre for Alcohol Policies.

Then again, if these standard parameters the researchers used are so wildly different from the working-and-drinking habits of most people I know — well, then perhaps that is saying … something. 

People Who Work Long Hours Drink a Lot