Longer Hours = More Drinking

A new paper, published in the British Medical Journal, suggests there’s a link between working long hours and heavy drinking.

overwork and heavy drinking

Sounds kind of obvious, right? The longer you work, the more tired and stressed you are. For many people, the solution to this stress is alcohol. Speaking from personal experience, alcohol and drugs were my answer to stress, and most everything else, for many years!

Well, now there’s science to back up this common sense truth. The longer and harder you work at a job that raises your stress level, the more prone you are to drink to excess. What’s more, these new findings show that gender, race, and economic status don’t factor in at all. Rather, it’s a one-to-one relationship between hours worked and alcohol intake.

Marianna Virtanen, the author of the paper and leader of the study, had the following to say about the link between overworking and overdrinking:

“…these findings suggests that some people may be prone to coping with excess working hours by habits that are unhealthy, in this case by using alcohol above the recommended limits” (Voice Chronicle).

So, what exactly does this study tell us? What are the new facts?

Work Hard & Play Hard

Scientists from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, located in beautiful Helsinki (hello, can I get a job there!), studied date from more than 330,000 people across fourteen different countries.

Their findings show that people who work for forty-eight or more hour per week are 11% more likely to drink heavily. That’s a rather large increase! Heavy drinking is defined as men having twenty-one or more drinks per week and women having fourteen or more drinks per week.

Backpacking off this new research, Cassandra Okechukwu, of the Harvard School of Public Health, estimated that there are two million people drinking heavily due to work. Again, that’s a lot of people driven to the bottle for no reason other than working long hours!

What this study doesn’t take into account are rates of alcoholism. Remember, heavy drinking and alcoholism are two different beasts altogether. So, if working long hours makes you 11% more likely to engage in heavy drinking – how much does it contribute to alcoholism?

That, my dear readers, is a conversation for another time. For now, let’s look at some of the dangers of heavy drinking.

Dangers of Heavy Drinking

Okay, this part is fairly obvious. Drinking to excess brings with it some significant dangers. This is true of heavy drinking, binge drinking, alcoholism, or mixing alcohol and other drugs.

Health problems common to heavy drinking include: heart disease, liver issues (including chronic Hepatitis), kidney problems, alcohol poisoning (overdose), increased risk of stroke, increased risk of cancer, drunk driving, unsafe sexual practices, and other negligent behavior.

Is There a Solution?

Here we reach the crux of the new research. Is there a solution to heavy drinking brought on by working forty-eight plus hours per week? Unfortunately, the research and resulting paper don’t suggest a solution. Rather, they state:

“Further research is needed to assess whether preventive interventions against risky alcohol use could benefit from information on working hours” (Voice Chronicle).

alcohol and work

So, I’d like to suggest my own solutions. First, stop stressing out over work! This is much easier said than done, however it’s absolutely possible for everyone. If work is stressing you out, instead of turning to booze you can try meditation, journaling, talk therapy, other forms of therapy, or even talking with friends.

Second, if you find yourself drinking to excess, seek help! Don’t stay stuck in the cycle of drinking, feeling guilty, working, getting stressed, and drinking more! Trust me, it’s a hard cycle to break, but it’s 100% possible to come out the other side.

Think about it like this – if I can get sober, then anyone can get sober. If I can stop drinking to excess, then anyone can stop drinking to excess. This is true of people who drink due to work, stress, family issues, or anything else.

Finally, I’d like to suggest adopting a spiritual way of living. This is wonderful for living a life that’s productive, happy, and stress free. Once again, it’s hard to live based on spiritual principles, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges and work involved.

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