Last updated June 14, 2018 at 11:53 am
European study finds teetotallers have a poor work record.
People who don’t drink alcohol are more likely to miss days at work than folk who don’t mind a drop or two, research from Finland shows.
Common wisdom holds that teetotallers, because they carry a zero-risk of suffering a debilitating hangover or injuring themselves by falling off a bar stool, are very likely to be reliable employees.
Researchers led by Jenni Ervasti from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, have put the lie to the contention.
The team looked at a pool of 47,520 people from Finland, the UK, and France, each of whom had filled in two surveys regarding alcohol consumption, several years apart.
Boozing habits were then correlated with work absence records. The results showed that teetotallers and heavy drinkers were more likely to take days off than women who drank between one and 11 alcohol units a week, and men who chucked down between one and 34.
Compared to them, non-drinkers were more likely to be absent because of mental or musculoskeletal disorders, or diseases of the digestive and respiratory systems.
At the other end of the spectrum, heavy drinkers also showed a higher-than-average rate of days off, although for different reasons. In this group, the most common reasons for being absent were injury or “poisoning”.
“People abstaining from alcohol had a higher risk of sickness absence due to chronic mental and somatic disorders compared to low-risk drinkers, and persistent at-risk drinkers had more sickness absence due to external causes compared to persistently low-risk drinkers,” the researchers conclude.
The findings reveal a U-shaped pattern of absenteeism, with different causes at each end – a result that could potentially help occupational therapists to treat clients.
Ervasti, however, cautions that the apparent direct link between alcohol consumption and work attendance may not be as clear as it seems. Other factors, she says, may be in play.
“Some diseases, or their treatment, prevent alcohol use, which may explain the excess risks among abstainers,” she explains.
“Moreover, participants to whom at-risk drinking causes health problems may be selected out from the labour market, that is, if they retire early or become unemployed. Then, the adverse effects are not seen in absence from work due to illness.”
The paper is published in the journal Addiction.