HealthDay News — Working long hours may raise the risk for alcohol abuse, according to a new study of more than 300,000 people from 14 countries.

Researchers found that employees who worked more than 48 hours a week were almost 13% more likely to drink to excess than those who worked 48 hours or less, according to a report published online in the BMJ.

“Although the risks were not very high, these findings suggest that some people might be prone to coping with excess working hours by habits that are unhealthy, in this case by using alcohol above the recommended limits,” said study author Marianna Virtanen, PhD, from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki.

Risky drinking is considered to be more than 14 drinks a week for women and more than 21 drinks a week for men. Drinking this much may increase the risk of health problems such as liver disease, cancer, stroke, heart disease and mental disorders, the researchers said.

Virtanen believes that workers who drink to excess may be trying to cope with a variety of work-related ills. “I think the symptoms people try to alleviate with alcohol may include stress, depression, tiredness and sleep disturbances,” she said.

Virtanen was careful to say this study could only show an association between long work hours and risky drinking, not that working long hours caused heavy drinking. “With this type of study, you can never fully prove the cause-and-effect relationship,” she said.


Virtanen M, et al. Long working hours and alcohol use: systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies and unpublished individual participant data. BMJ. 2015; doi: