Working Long Hours Puts Young People at Risk for Alcohol-Related Problems

Young people who work more than 50 hours a week have more than double the risk for alcohol-related problems than the unemployed, according to a new study from New Zealand.

Dr. Sheree Gibb of the University of Otago followed a thousand people born in 1977 to age 30. When they were ages 25 to 30, those who worked 50 hours or more a week were 1.8 to 3.3 times more likely to develop problems with alcohol compared to the unemployed, and 1.2 to 1.5 times more likely compared to those who worked 30 to 49 hours a week. The finding held true for both men and women.

Dr. Gibb speculated that because people who work long hours are more likely to socialize with their co-workers, they may be more likely to drink more than average too.

"Individuals who work longer hours may have more social contact with co-workers, and workplaces where long hours are commonplace may experience a more sociable atmosphere that involves a greater level of alcohol use," she explained in her report.

Dr. Gibb said that governments should consider policies and programs to prevent alcoholism among those who work long hours.

This study appears in the journal Addiction.

A previous research team that looked at the alcoholic consumption of 106 American college students who also were holding down part-time jobs came to similar conclusions. The number of hours the students worked on any given day was positively related to the number of drinks they consumed that day, but their overall workload was not related to their overall alcoholic consumption. The authors, from the University of Iowa, concluded that "employment during the academic year plays a significant role in college student drinking and suggests that the employment context may be an appropriate intervention site to address the problem of student drinking."

That study appeared in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.