Employees with high alcohol consumption may experience impaired work performance

A review of research conducted on more than 92 000 employees in 15 countries suggests that employees characterized by high levels of alcohol consumption may experience greater work impairments than employees who drink less.

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Alcohol constitute a global public health challenge. Harmful alcohol consumption is associated with detrimental health and participation outcomes, on both individual and societal levels. The majority of employees consume alcohol regularly, and previous research have established an association between higher alcohol consumption and increased sick leave. The aim of this review was to explore whether employee alcohol consumption is associated with presenteeism (reduced on-the-job productivity due to impairments and health issues).

Systematic searches in the scientific literature identified 26 studies from 15 countries who have explored the relationship between alcohol consumption and work performance. A total of 132 statistical tests were conducted within these 26 studies. The vast majority of tests (77 %) indicated that higher levels of alcohol consumption were associated with impaired work performance. Some tests suggested an opposite or unclear pattern, but were characterized by being more unreliable.

It is more difficult to measure presenteeism than sick leave. The review revealed that studies reported in the literature varied considerably in quality, and that consensus on how to measure presenteeism was lacking among researchers.

The review implies that alcohol-related presenteeism may be conceived as a detrimental occupational outcome, in line with an increased risk of work-related injuries and alcohol-related sick leave. Hence, the review provides further support for targeting alcohol consumption within workplace interventions aimed at improving employee health and productivity. Still, the review indicates a need for further research on the topic of alcohol-related presenteeism.

Read full text article:

Thørrisen, M. M., Bonsaksen, T., Hashemi, N., Kjeken, I., van Mechelen, W., & Aas, R. W. (2019). Association between alcohol consumption and impaired work performance (presenteeism): a systematic review. BMJ Open, 9(7). doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-029184

The review was made by the research group PARTAKE - Participation in school, working life and treatment at the University of Stavanger together with the authors. For more research news, feel free to follow us on our website or Facebook page.