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Long hours increase risky alcohol attitudes

21 January 2015

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Staff members working longer hours are more likely to indulge in risky alcohol use according to the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

According to the research, employees working more than 48 hours a week are likely to consume more alcohol than those working a standard 35-hour week.

Risky alcohol consumption is considered as more than 14 drinks per week for women and more than 21 drinks per week for men. It can increase the risk of adverse health problems, including liver diseases, cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease and mental disorders.

In a cross sectional analysis of 333,693 people in 14 countries, the BMJ found that longer working hours increased the likelihood of higher alcohol use by 11%. A prospective analysis found a similar increase in risk of 12% for onset of risky alcohol use in 100,602 people from nine countries.

Cassandra A Okechukwu, assistant professor at Harvard School of Public Health, USA writes that the results have implications for exceptions to recommended weekly working hours, which could lead to more alcohol consumption and greater health risks for millions of people.

She suggests that the regulation of working hours could constitute a public health intervention and concludes: “Given mounting pressure to exclude an increasing proportion of workers from current standards that limit working hours in Europe and other developed countries, long working hours is an exposure that we cannot afford to ignore.”