Working Long Hours Leads to Heavy Drinking

Work hard, play harder. A well known quote used by the employed to try and justify the copious amounts of alcohol consumed as soon as they leave work for the day, whatever time that may be. There’s a reason why happy hour starts right after people typically get out of work. After a long, hard day at the office, it’s not uncommon for tired employees to hit the bar or even wait until they get home to have a few beers. However, recent studies have shown that the link between working longer hours and drinking more alcohol could have a scientific explanation behind it, so it seems that workaholics could have a fairly reasonable excuse for their binge drinking after all.

The British Medical Journal recently released a study that concludes working longer hours leads to heavy drinking. The study found that people who work more than 48 hours in one week are 11% more likely to drink alcohol at risk level than those who work a normal working week. Risk level is defined by health guidelines as consumption of more than 14 drinks a week for women and 21 drinks for men, consumption of alcohol to this extent poses a significant health risk.

There are a number of reasons that could go some way to explaining these findings, the most obvious and common being that drinking is a well known and common reaction to stress. Working long hours means less time for friends and family and less time in which to do the things people actually enjoy in life. Another suggestion is that the lack of leisure time for people who work long hours may result in habits of using alcohol as a concentrated form of relaxant, this type of ‘self medication’ can in fact do more damage than good. Another perhaps more scientific explanation behind the connection between work and drinking is that it may be bi-directional. Stress increases the activity of brain regions responsible for drug seeking and craving, stressful work is often ‘addictive’ in itself. This could be a self-perpetuating cycle. Work causes stress, which renders people more prone to addictions to substances and work.

This vicious circle of over working and over drinking is inevitably only going to leave the culprit worse off than they already were. While alcohol may help ease stress, it is only a temporary fix and excessive consumption of alcohol is also linked to sick leave and poor performance. Therefore employers might want to bear this in mind when trying to contain the cost spent on each employee for health insurance, sick leave, disability, and other benefits. They should consider the costs of high productivity, unreasonable work hours and no time off when it’s needed in the long run. Any of these could drive even the best of employees to heavy drinking.

If you believe that you would benefit from legal advice on this matter or believe you may have a claim against your employer, please call us on 0844 499 9302 or email stress@michaellewin.co.uk

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