Workplace stress causes problem drinking

As 2013 shifts into gear, so too is increased workplace stress and the rise of problem drinking. What can employers do to curb the trend

Workplace stress causes problem drinking

There's nothing wrong with a tipple – whether it’s to celebrate or commiserate, most people will raise a glass. But are your staff overdoing it thanks to work stress?

Three weeks into the New Year, many workers are already feeling the pinch, and the consumption of alcohol is on the rise beyond just Friday pub sessions. According to recent statistics which looked at the consumption of alcohol in Australia, as stress increases (particularly for younger workers), so too does the ‘need’ for a wind down drink.

Key statistics include:

  • Almost three-quarters of Australians admit turning to alcohol to unwind from a hard day at work (76% male; 67% female)
  • Gen Y hit the bottle hardest – some 34% of 18-24 year olds and 25% of 25-34 year olds cited physical and mental exhaustion, stress and blowing off steam as the primary reason for drinking during the workday.
  • Alcohol use is on the rise – 17% of Australians admit drinking during the workday at least once per week, compared to 10% in 2010/11. Some 36% admit to being tipsy or drunk at work at least once per year compared to 6.6% in 2010/11.
  • Almost half of 18-24 year olds also admit to presenting for work with a hangover at least once a year, compared with 39% of 25-34 year olds, 27% 35-44 year olds and 18% 45-54 year olds.

The question is, at what point is it the employer’s responsibility to curb problem drinking? According to Febfast, a charitable trust that encourages people to take a break from alcohol in February, there is a strong correlation with returning to the workplace, and returning to habitual drinking.

Howard Ralley, national director Febfast, told HC, that a range of major employers have signed up to the month long event. While abstaining from alcohol for one month could be seen as treating the symptom rather than the cause, research by VicHealth found that participating in month-long abstinence events, including febfast, Ocsober, Dry July and Hello Sunday Morning, have long-term effects.

  • Since completing the month, 70% of respondents agree they are more likely to think about how much they want to drink on any occasion.
  • Just under half of respondents report drinking less on each occasion following the month, and nearly all of those drinking less intend to maintain the changes.
  • The benefits experienced during the month meant that respondents were more likely to reduce the amount consumed on each subsequent occasion.
  • The motivation to participate in a month of alcohol abstinence with others rather than as a sole participant was associated with a decreased likelihood of drinking less on each occasion following the month.
  • For many, changes to alcohol consumption following the month appear to be sustained. More than a third of those reduced the frequency or amount of alcohol consumed after previous like-events reported that they maintained the change for at least one year.


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