Alcohol farm

Alcohol abuse and work absenteeism have likely worsened during the pandemic

Alcohol consumption is an ongoing problem for employers. As alcohol consumption increases, it is often associated with lost productivity and missed work. As workplaces have transitioned to working from home and many employees have lost the structure of a physical workplace, it becomes more difficult for employers to identify and monitor problematic alcohol use and workers lost their routines, which led to a change in drinking habits.

While it is certainly understood that heavy drinking is associated with work absences, the extent of the problem has not been well understood until recently. A team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, and led by Dr. Laura J. Bierut MD, analyzed the extent of the problem and obtained alarming results.

A research team led by Laura J. Bierut, MD (pictured) found that people with severe alcohol use disorder miss more than double the number of days of work missed by people without alcohol use disorder alcohol consumption.

Washington University School of Medicine

Based on data obtained from more than 110,000 U.S. survey participants, all adults with full-time jobs, Bierut and colleagues report that nearly 11 million full-time workers in the U.S. met the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder. This disorder is characterized by an impaired ability to control or stop alcohol consumption despite adverse health, work, or social effects.

These results were published today in the journal JAMA network open.

Data for the study was collected between 2015 and 2019 via the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This survey is conducted annually by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration and focuses on 12-month drug and alcohol use among people over the age of 12.

Alcohol use disorder was assessed using a series of questions to determine whether a person had tried to stop drinking but was unable to, had spent a lot of time sick because of alcohol or had memory loss.

Those who did not meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder missed about 13 days of work per year, while those with mild, moderate, and severe alcohol use disorder missed 18, respectively. 24 and 32 working days. In addition, the researcher calculated that although 9.3% of workers met the criteria for alcohol use disorder, they accounted for 14.1% of the total absences from the workplace.

“A lot of times people who are so short of work lose their jobs,” said Bierut, who also runs the University of Washington Center for Health and Behavior Research. “But our hope is that the workplace can be a point of contact where intervention can take place. You’re there eight hours a day, and when an employer starts to see these difficulties, maybe instead of firing someone, they could take steps to help that person heal.

Although their study only included full-time workers, it was noted that alcohol abuse was more common among men, young people, those who identified as white or Hispanic, and those with lower incomes. .

The pandemic has changed a lot about the way people work, and it has also changed drinking habits. For example, in the early days of the pandemic, from March to September 2020, alcohol sales increased by 20% compared to the same period in 2019. Moreover, the latest data indicates that sales remained at low levels. close to that level ever since.

“We specifically chose to stop our data analysis the year before the pandemic began so that we could be more confident in our results,” the first author said. Ian C. Parsley, MD, intern in psychiatry. “Having more people working from home could change the associations we saw before the pandemic started. The amount of alcohol consumed since people work more from home has really exploded. It’s not something that’s going to resolve itself, even as we slowly come out of this pandemic. »

Bierut said it’s likely the loss of routine to go to work contributed to the problems.

“Work has the advantage of structuring us: you get up in the morning, you get dressed, you go to work,” she explained. “But many people lost their jobs during the pandemic while others worked from home and lost that structure. We’ve lost our safeguards for certain types of behaviors, so I think it’s likely that alcohol use disorder will have a greater impact on the population and on the workforce than in 2019. And as our results show, he had a big impact in 2019.