Long working hours linked to alcohol abuse risk – Research

Working more than 48 hours a week can increase your chances of engaging in risky alcohol consumption, a new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) shows.

A glass of beer

A glass of beer

According to the European Union Working Time Directive (EUWT), workers in EU countries have the right to work no more than 48 hours a week, including overtime. This rule is however not always respected by some categories of workers, especially the well-educated managers and professionals.

The study of 333,693 people in 14 countries found that longer working hours increased the likelihood of higher alcohol use by 11%.

Risky alcohol consumption is considered as more than 14 drinks per week for women and more than 21 drinks per week for men.

According the researchers, alcohol consumption is believed to increase risk of adverse health problems, including liver diseases, cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease and mental disorders.

“While alcohol may help to ease the stress of working long periods of time, risky consumption is also associated with difficulties in the workplace, including increased sick leave, poor performance, impaired decision making and occupational injuries,” says the study.

In an accompanying editorial, Cassandra A Okechukwu, an Assistant Professor at Harvard School of Public Health, US, writes: “Given mounting pressure to exclude an increasing proportion of workers from current standards that limit working hours in Europe and other developed countries, long working hours is an exposure that we cannot afford to ignore.”

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