Intended for healthcare professionals


Long working hours are linked to risky alcohol consumption

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 13 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:g7800
  1. Cassandra A Okechukwu, assistant professor
  1. 1Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Kresge Building, Boston, MA 02115, USA
  1. cokechuk{at}

Policy makers should think carefully before exempting more workers from restrictions on working hours

In a linked paper, Virtanen and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.g7772) present a meta-analysis combining published studies (34 cross sectional, n=139 112; two longitudinal, n=6873) with unpublished data (27 cross sectional, n=194 581; 18 longitudinal, n=93 729) to explore associations between long working hours and use of alcohol.1 They found that exposure to long working hours was associated with higher odds of alcohol use in cross sectional studies. Also, compared with working 35-40 hours a week, those working 49-54 and ≥55 hours experienced higher incidence of new onset risky alcohol use (>14 drinks/week in women; >21 drinks/week in men).

They found no heterogeneity in the tested associations based on sex, socioeconomic class, or geographic regions. This meta-analysis supports the longstanding suspicion that among workers subjected to long working hours, alcohol can seem like a fast acting and effective way to dull work related aches and pains and smooth the transition between work life and home life.2 3 Indeed, these findings could add impetus to further regulation of working hours as a public health intervention. If so, those participating in the policy debate should bear in mind …

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