I have certainly had times in my life where, at the end of the work day, all I wanted to do was have a few glasses of wine to help me relax. For some people, the ritual of having a drink or two after work becomes a habit that’s hard to break. A systematic review published recently finds that this sort of habit can lead to unhealthy behaviors.
The review analyzed 63 studies that included more than 300,000 participants in 14 countries to measure the relationship between hours worked and risky alcohol use.
The researchers defined “risky alcohol use” as more than 14 drinks a week for women and more than 21 drinks a week for men. At these levels, alcohol consumption has been found to increase the risks of health problems such as liver diseases, cancer, heart disease and mental disorders. It also has been found to lead to social problems including family disruption, violence and traffic incidents.
The review found, on average, that people who worked more than 50 hours a week were 28 percent more likely to engage in risky use of alcohol compared to those who worked 35-40 hours a week.
This phenomenon occurred equally among men and women, various age groups, and geographical locations. It also didn’t matter how much participants were earning. Those who worked more than 40 hours a week at a low-income job were just as likely to participate in risky alcohol use as those who had higher-paying jobs.
The researchers did note some limitations in the data. Both working hours and alcohol consumption were self-reported, which could lead participants to provide inaccurate information. Still, there was enough evidence to conclude that working hours long hours increases the risks of alcohol use to levels that pose health risks. This important information can help individuals think about the decisions they make around alcohol use. It also provides a foundation to developing programs to prevent alcohol misuse.