Heavy Drinking Blamed for Over 232 Million Missed Workdays in the US

CC0 / / Spirits bottles in a shopping cart
Spirits bottles in a shopping cart - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.03.2022
The abuse of alcohol is a serious problem in almost every part of the world, apart from Muslim-majority nations, which frown on or ban the intoxicant’s use. In the United States, up to 17 percent of men and 10 percent of women are estimated to suffer from alcoholism.
Excessive alcohol consumption has a considerable impact on America’s global competitiveness, with a new study blaming it for over 232 million missed workdays.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, Missouri, concluded that 9.3 percent of the US adult workforce (i.e. nearly 11 million total workers) meet the criteria for being diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder. This segment of the population reported missing an average of 32 work days per year – over double that of employees not suffering from the problem (who missed an average of 13 days).
Individuals with mild alcohol use disorder were calculated to have missed an average of 18 days of work, while those with moderate alcohol use disorder missed 24 days.
“Alcohol use disorder is a major problem in the United States and a big problem in many workplaces, where it contributes to a significant number of workdays missed,” senior researcher Dr. Laura J. Bierut said in a university press release.
“The problem likely has worsened during the pandemic, and we need to try to do more to ensure that people can get the help they need to deal with alcohol use disorder. The new data also point to an economic incentive for employers and policymakers to address the issue,” Bierut said.
The MD noted that an employer’s first response to alcohol abuse can be to simply fire a person. “But our hope is that the workplace might be a point of contact where intervention can occur. You’re there eight hours a day, and when an employer begins seeing these difficulties, perhaps instead of firing a person, they could take action to assist with that individual’s recovery,” she urged.

Dr. Ian Parsley, another physician involved in the study, echoed Bierut’s concerns about the impact of the pandemic lockdowns on alcohol abuse. “Having more people working at home could change the associations we saw before the pandemic began. The amount of alcohol consumed since people have been working from home more has really just gone through the roof. That’s not something that’s just going to resolve itself, even as we slowly come out of this pandemic,” he said.

This aerial picture taken on December 20, 2020, shows the deserted Dam Square in Amsterdam decorated with a Christmas tree.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.02.2022
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The study used survey data of over 110,000 US adults with full-time jobs gathered through the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2015 and 2019. The study can be found in JAMA Network Open, a monthly open access medical journal published by the American Medical Association.
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