Long working hours can lead to risky alcohol use

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London, Jan 14 (IANS) People who work more than 48 hours per week are more likely to engage in risky alcohol consumption than those who work normal weeks worldwide, finds a global study spanning across 14 countries.

Risky alcohol consumption is considered as more than 14 drinks per week for women and more than 21 drinks per week for men.

It is believed to increase risk of adverse health problems, including liver diseases, cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease and mental disorders.

In an analysis of 333,693 people in 14 countries, they found that longer working hours increased the likelihood of higher alcohol use by 11 percent.

A prospective analysis found a similar increase in risk of 12 percent for onset of risky alcohol use in 100,602 people from nine countries.

Individual participant data from 18 prospective studies showed that those who worked 49-54 hours and 55 hours per week or more were found to have an increased risk of 13 percent and 12 percent respectively of risky alcohol consumption compared with those who worked 35-40 hours per week.

The authors point out that no differences were seen between men and women or by age, socio-economic status or region.

“The workplace is an important setting for the prevention of alcohol misuse because more than half of the adult population are employed,” said lead researcher Marianna Virtanen, an epidemiologist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki and University College London.

Further research is needed to assess whether preventive interventions against risky alcohol use could benefit from information on working hours, the team added.

“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,” wrote Cassandra A. Okechukwu, assistant professor at Harvard University’s school of public health in an accompanying editorial.

Although, in absolute terms, the difference between the groups was relatively small, the authors argue that any exposure with avoidable increases in disease or health damaging behaviour, or both, warrants careful examination.

The study appeared in the journal BMJtoday.

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