Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Doctors' drinking habits and consumption of alcohol.

British Medical Journal 1988; 297 doi: (Published 15 October 1988) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1988;297:951
  1. J. Juntunen,
  2. S. Asp,
  3. M. Olkinuora,
  4. M. Aärimaa,
  5. L. Strid,
  6. K. Kauttu
  1. Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland.


    Alcohol consumption and drinking habits among Finnish doctors were studied as part of a survey of stress and burnout. A questionnaire containing 99 questions or groups of questions was sent to all 3496 practising doctors aged under 66 randomly selected from the registry of the Finnish Medical Association. Altogether 2671 doctors (76%) responded; this sample was representative of the Finnish medical profession. The average weekly consumption of alcohol during the past year and various aspects of drinking behaviour were assessed, and the presence or absence of symptoms and diseases often encountered among heavy drinkers and addicts was determined. The data were analysed separately for men and women, for those aged less than or equal to 40 and greater than 40, and for the men with high and low alcohol consumption and with high and low scores on the index of drinking habits. Selected variables related to work, stress, and coping were correlated with alcohol consumption and drinking behaviour. The median consumption of alcohol among male doctors was 4876 g (6.2 litres) and among female doctors 2226 g (2.8 litres) of absolute alcohol per person per year and was higher in those aged over 40. Beer was most commonly drunk by men and wine by women. Increased alcohol consumption was associated with older age, disappointment with career, heavy smoking, use of benzodiazepines, stress and burnout symptoms, suicidal thoughts, general dissatisfaction, and diseases related to alcohol. Drinking habits were heavier among doctors working in community health centres, those taking long sick leaves, younger doctors disappointed with their careers or the atmosphere at work, and older doctors immersed in their work. Alcohol consumption among doctors seems to be higher than that of the general population in Finland, and heavy drinking seems to be associated with stress and burnout.