Moneybox

If You Work Hard, You’re More Likely to Drink Hard

Dying inside.

Science has finally confirmed what anybody who has ever met an i-banker, lawyer, or journalist already knew: People who work exhaustingly long hours like to drink themselves insensate at the end of the week.

To be specific, an analysis published in the British Medical Journal found that working more than 48 hours a week was associated with a slightly higher probability of “risky” alcohol consumption. The authors reached their main conclusions by analyzing unpublished data from 27 studies conducted in the United States, Europe, and Australia. They also looked at the findings of 36 previously released papers, many of which were also from Japan—where after-work binge drinking is basically a cherished part of its office culture.

What, precisely, is “risky” drinking? The paper’s definition varied a bit depending on the exact data source. But in many cases, for a woman, it meant consuming more than 14 alcoholic beverages a week. For a man, it meant more than 21. In other words, it was defined as “the level of alcohol consumption at which there might be an increased risk of adverse health consequences, such as liver diseases, cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, mental disorders, and injuries, as well as considerable social costs because of family disruption, violence, traffic incidents, healthcare costs, reduced work productivity, and permanent exclusion from the labour market.”

So, we’re not talking about, “Oooohhhhhhhh man, I got so wasted after work last Friday, ha ha” heavy drinking. It’s more like, “Ooohhhhhhhh, man, my doctor keeps warning me about cirrhosis” heavy drinking.

Overall, 6.3 percent of study subjects were risky drinkers. People who worked 49 to 54 hours per week were 1.13 times—or about 0.8 percentage points—more likely to be one. Those who worked 55 hours or more weekly were 1.12 times—or 0.7 percentage points—more likely to be one. But the data doesn’t give any clear answers on correlation vs. causation. Maybe those who tend to pull endless hours at the office are the same personality types who tend to imbibe heavily. Or maybe working long hours drives people to drink. Personally, I’d bet on the latter.