Does Workaholic Equal Alcoholic?

I often feel that there’s something of a peculiar attitude towards workaholism, certainly in the western world.  Despite various studies showing it to be far from positive, and there being an increasing number of tools allowing us to observe the output of our work rather than the number of hours we put in, there is still a perception that working long hours is somehow heroic or noble.

Indeed, studies have shown that those who put in long hours at the office, or face time as its known, tend to get promotions, regardless of how effective all of these long stints at the office actually are.  Of course, there have also been numerous explorations of the impact long hours have on us, both physically and mentally, and the results are far from comforting.

One such is a recent study published in the British Medical Journal that looked at the drinking habits of employees.  They wanted to test whether people that put in super long shifts had different drinking habits to their colleagues.

What is a workaholic?

First thing is first.  For the purposes of the study, the researchers defined a workaholic as someone who regularly puts in more than 48 hours of work each week, with risky alcohol consumption defined as 14 units or more of alcohol per week for women and more than 21 units of alcohol per week for men.  For reference purposes, a pint of beer is around 3 units.

If you do consume that amount of alcohol, it’s believed that you’re at increased risk of problems such as cancer, stroke, liver disease, heart disease and so on.

About the study

The researchers analysed 333,693 individuals across 14 different countries to try and gauge both their work habits and their drinking behaviours.  The trend was pretty conclusive.  The results found that those working long hours were 11 percent more likely to consume more than the recommended amount of alcohol each week.

What’s more, this risk grew the longer the hours worked were.  For instance, if an employee put in between 49-54 hours a week, their alcohol risk was 13 percent higher than those working a standard 35-40 hour 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 say. "Further research is needed to assess whether preventive interventions against risky alcohol use could benefit from information on working hours."

With the European Union Working Time Directive recommending a maximum of 48 hours worked each week, it’s clear that there should be some limits on how many hours we put in, especially as fatigue and stress is likely to significantly hinder the effectiveness of our work, not to mention our health too.

Does your current employer have any guidelines or limits on the number of hours you work each week?  Do you feel like there’s a pressure to put in super long shifts in order to carry favour with your managers?

I’d love to hear about the culture in your own workplaces, so do please share them in the comments below.


Image Source: iStock

Long working hours are linked to risky alcohol consumption




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