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How harmful alcohol use worsens your relationship with work

02 Outubro 2022


Alcohol is associated with absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace, new studies show.


Intuitively, alcohol and work are two things that don't go well together. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and can impact work performance in several ways, including absences, accidents, arguments and fights, layoffs, among other types of lost productivity and income. The real dimension of the impact of harmful use of alcohol at work and in the economy has been continuously studied, and new research reiterates the dangers of this combination (1–3). It is known that rates of excessive alcohol consumption can be higher in some sectors, such as civil construction and arts and entertainment, and among some specific segments, such as workers about to retire and younger workers (4). Some people may also misuse alcohol as a resource to deal with stress at work. For context, the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicates that 20% to 25% of work accidents in the world involve people under the influence of some type of drug, that between 3% to 5% of the working population is dependent on drugs, and that 25% of them are risk users (5).


Alcohol consumption at work facilitates the occurrence of accidents, probably due to the changes it causes, reducing coordination and balance, increasing reaction time, changing judgment, decreasing visual acuity and visual field, and worsening the ability to concentrate and reason (6).


In addition to these direct aspects, alcohol consumption affects work through an increase in absenteeism rates, which are absences or delays in work without prior justification. A recent literature review points out that heavy drinkers have a higher rate of absence from work than moderate drinkers. And these, in turn, had higher rates than people who did not consume alcohol (3). A recent US study analyzing data from the National Drug and Health Survey between 2015 and 2019 showed that people with alcohol use disorders in the US contributed, annually, to more than 232 million days of absenteeism combined.


Another study sought to analyze the relationship between alcohol and absenteeism in a survey with data from 15 countries, encompassing 439,000 people with employment contracts. The study reports that cross-sectional studies** point to an 8 times higher risk of absenteeism in people who consume alcohol in risky patterns.


Research reinforces the need for campaigns of information, prevention and treatment of disorders related to alcohol use in the work environment. Programs to prevent and reduce harmful use of alcohol in the workplace can benefit the employee, the employer and society at large. Some studies show promising results from programs focused on culture change in the work environment, general health promotion programs and brief interventions (4).


Finally, it is important to emphasize that the harmful use of alcohol, in addition to worsening work performance, can make it even more difficult to deal with issues such as stress, pressure and anxiety, so common in contemporary work environments. So if you feel like you're using alcohol to deal with any kind of problem, seek expert help from a healthcare professional. In the case of the employer, if you notice that employees have been making harmful use of alcohol, it is important to think about programs that offer information and assistance to avoid the negative results of the association between alcohol and work.




** Research that is carried out in just one moment, representing a “picture” of the aspects studied, as opposed to longitudinal studies, which collect data over several different periods of time.

Additional Info

  • Referências:
    1. Hashemi NS, Skogen JC, Sevic A, Thørrisen MM, Rimstad SL, Sagvaag H, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis uncovering the relationship between alcohol consumption and sickness absence. When type of design, data, and sickness absence make a difference. PLoS One [Internet]. 2022 Jan 1 [cited 2022 May 6];17(1):e0262458. Available from:
    2. Parsley IC, Dale AM, Fisher SL, Mintz CM, Hartz SM, Evanoff BA, et al. Association Between Workplace Absenteeism and Alcohol Use Disorder From the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2015-2019. JAMA Netw Open [Internet]. 2022 Mar 1 [cited 2022 May 3];5(3):e222954–e222954. Available from:
    3. Marzan M, Callinan S, Livingston M, Leggat G, Jiang H. Systematic Review and Dose–Response Meta-Analysis on the Relationship Between Alcohol Consumption and Sickness Absence. Alcohol Alcohol [Internet]. 2022 Jan 8 [cited 2022 May 6];57(1):47–57. Available from:
    4. Ames, G. M., & Bennett, J. B. (2011). Prevention interventions of alcohol problems in the workplace. Alcohol research & health : the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 34(2), 175–187.
    6. Blum TC, Roman PM, Martin JK. Alcohol consumption and work performance. [Internet]. 2015 Jan 4 [cited 2022 May 11];54(1):61–70. Available from:

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