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Occupational health services should have an active role in alcohol prevention

Research shows that occupational health services may be an abeyant asset for alcohol prevention, but need competence, time and resources.

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A study of 69 occupational health services in Norway revealed that their alcohol prevention activity is quite limited, and that they are more focused on employees who have developed alcohol problems than on those at risk of developing such problems. However, occupational health services believe they should focus more on alcohol prevention, but need more competence, time and resources.

Harmful alcohol consumption constitutes a public health challenge, and alcohol use among employees is associated with both absenteeism and presenteeism (decreased on-the-job performance). Research has demonstrated that a considerable proportion of employees consume alcohol at a risky level and may benefit from prevention interventions. Brief prevention interventions have demonstrated favourable effects, but have proved difficult to implement in practice. Several researchers have emphasized that occupational health services (OHS) should obtain a more active role in alcohol prevention.

The aims of the study of 295 OHS professionals in 69 units in Norway were to explore to what extent and how OHS work with alcohol prevention, and which factors that constitute barriers against increased alcohol preventive efforts.

Results indicated that OHS’ alcohol prevention activity is quite limited, and that their efforts are more focused on employees who have developed alcohol-related problems than on those at risk of developing such problems. Lack of competence, time and resources stand out as the most significant barriers against increased alcohol preventive efforts. However, OHS professionals agreed that employees’ alcohol use constitutes a public health problem, and they agreed that OHS should obtain a more active role in alcohol prevention.

By ensuring adequate training, time, and resources in the OHS, one may release an abeyant asset for preventing alcohol problems among employees, and thus contribute to remedy a major public health issue.

Read full text article:

Thørrisen, M. M., Skogen, J. C., Kjeken, I., Jensen, I., & Aas, R. W. (2019). Current practices and perceived implementation barriers for working with alcohol prevention in occupational health services: the WIRUS OHS study. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 14(1). doi: 10.1186/s13011-019-0217-2

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.