A restrictive drinking culture at work curbs an individual’s overall alcohol intake, including outside of work, suggests research published ahead of print in Occupational and Environmental Medicine (Drinking social norms and drinking behaviours: a multilevel analysis of 137 workgroups in 16 worksites. Online First Occup Environ Med 2007;doi:10.1136/oem.2006.031765).
The researchers base their findings on a detailed analysis of workplace attitudes towards drinking and drinking behaviours in over 5,000 employees in 16 different organisations, representing a range of different sectors.
The employees were quizzed about how often they drank alcohol, and when and where they did so.
And they were asked to reveal their attitudes to social drinking, including whether they thought alcohol boosted workplace morale, was good for business, alleviated boredom, improved their health, was harmful, or set a bad example.
Their responses were tied in with those of their supervisors and managers who were also quizzed about the drinking culture in their respective divisions.
Overall, women employees who often attended religious services, and those who cohabited, were less likely to drink. Younger workers and smokers were more likely to do so.
Around one in five (19%) workers was classified as a heavy drinker outside of work (four or more drinks in one day in men and more than three in women).
A further 8% were classified as frequent drinkers (some alcohol on five or more days of the week) outside of work, and 11% were classified as drinking at work.
But rates of heavy, frequent, and workplace drinking were significantly lower in organisations that discouraged social drinking than in those that most tolerated it.
After taking account of other influential factors, workers in organisations that most discouraged social drinking were 45% less likely to be heavy drinkers than those in workplaces with the most relaxed attitudes to drinking.
They were also 54% less likely to be frequent drinkers and 69% less likely to drink during the working day.
The authors conclude that the workplace drinking culture is crucial for changing drinking patterns and preventing alcohol problems, and should be included in public health initiatives.
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