Working Long Hours Makes Us Drink More

After a busy day at work, perhaps you head down to the pub to have a pint with your flatmates.

Or maybe it’s an evening of sake and karaoke with the boss. Or pitchers of margaritas at your office park’s fast-casual restaurant. Work and alcohol: wherever we are, they seem to go together like start-ups and beer carts.

In moderation, there’s nothing wrong with that. But what about when it becomes a problem? Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and colleagues found that people who log long hours are about 12% more likely to become heavy drinkers.

It’s just the latest in a series of studies she’s conducted on the negative health effects of overwork. “We have shown associations with impaired sleep and depressive symptoms,” she writes, via email. Another study showed an association between long hours and Type 2 diabetes in low income workers. And other research has found a dramatic correlation between overwork and heart disease.

In the study on excessive drinking, she and her colleagues took data from 61 different studies to create a dataset of over 330,000 workers across 14 countries. “We found that working more than 48 hours a week was associated with increased risky alcohol use,” explains Virtanen. “We defined risky alcohol use as more than 14 drinks per week for women and more than 21 drinks per week for men.”