Percent Of US Employees Work Under Influence Of Alcohol
Medical News Today 10 Jan 2006
Workplace alcohol use and impairment
directly affects an estimated 15 percent of the U.S.
workforce, or 19.2 million workers, according to a recent
study conducted at the University at Buffalo's Research
Institute on Addictions (RIA) and reported in the current
issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol.
Information about workplace alcohol use and impairment
during the previous 12 months was obtained by telephone
interviews from 2,805 employed adults residing in the 48
contiguous states and the District of Columbia. The sample
of participants was designed to reflect the demographic
composition of the adult civilian U.S. workforce from ages
Interviews were conducted from January 2002 to June 2003.
Those interviewed were asked how often during the previous
year they drank alcohol within two hours of reporting to
work, drank during the workday, worked under the influence
or worked with a hangover.
This is the first study of workplace alcohol use to
utilize a representative probability sample of the U.S.
Based on those responses, Michael R. Frone, Ph.D.,
principal investigator on the study, estimates that 2.3
million workers (1.8 percent of the workforce) have
consumed alcohol at least once before coming to work and
8.9 million workers (7.1 percent of the workforce) have
drank alcohol at least once during the workday. Most
workers who drink during the workday do so during lunch
breaks, though some drink while working or during other
Frone, research associate professor in Department of
Psychology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences,
estimates that 2.1 million workers (1.7 percent of the
workforce) worked under the influence of alcohol and 11.6
million workers (9.2 percent of the workforce) worked with
Nonetheless, the study, funded by the National Institute
on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, suggests that most
workplace alcohol use and impairment does not occur
frequently. Among those employees who report drinking
before work, 71 percent reported doing so less than
monthly, 25 percent monthly, and only four percent,
weekly. For those who drank during the workday, 62 percent
did so less than monthly, 24 percent monthly, and 14
The study found that workplace alcohol use and impairment
was more prevalent among men compared to women. Also,
working under the influence of alcohol or with a hangover
was more prevalent among younger workers compared to older
workers and among unmarried workers compared to married
Among the broad occupation groups showing the highest
rates of workplace alcohol use and impairment were the
management occupations, sales occupations,
arts/entertainment/sports/media occupations, food
preparation and serving occupations, and building and
grounds maintenance occupations.
Workers on the evening shift and night shift and those
working a nonstandard shift involving irregular or
flexible work hours were more likely to report drinking
before coming to work compared to workers on a regular day
shift. Those working a nonstandard shift were also more
likely to use alcohol during the workday and report being
at work under the influence of alcohol.
Prior to this study, very little data existed on the
prevalence, frequency and distribution of alcohol use and
impairment at the workplace.
A primary goal of the study was to inform managers,
policymakers, and researchers so that all stakeholders
have a better understanding of the extent of alcohol use
and impairment in the workplace when formulating policy
and exploring causes and outcomes.
"Of all psychoactive substances with the potential to
impair cognitive and behavioral performance, alcohol is
the most widely used and misused substance in the general
population and in the workforce," Frone stated. "The
misuse of alcohol by employed adults is an important
social policy issue with the potential to undermine
employee productivity and safety."
Frone contends that the impact of employee alcohol use on
productivity and safety may not be understood until closer
attention is paid to the context in which drinking occurs.
"The context of alcohol use -- off the job vs. on the job
-- is important to an understanding of the productivity
implications (job attendance vs. job performance and
safety) of that use," he explained.
The Research Institute on Addictions has been a leader in
the study of addictions since 1970 and a research center
of the University at Buffalo since 1999.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, the largest and most comprehensive
campus in the State University of New York.
University at Buffalo