Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Prevention Interventions of Alcohol Problems in the Workplace: A Review and Guiding Framework

Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Prevention Interventions of Alcohol Problems in the Workplace: A Review and Guiding Framework

Article excerpt

Workplace programs designed to prevent and reduce alcohol problems can potentially benefit the employee, the employer, and society in general. In 2007, 8.8 percent of full-time workers overall reported heavy alcohol use (i.e., they consumed five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days), and 30.2 percent reported binge drinking (i.e., consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days) (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2009). As demonstrated in figure 1, when broken down by occupational types, heavy-drinking rates can be much higher in some industries.

Substance abuse is associated with multiple negative workplace outcomes, including absences from work, accidents, turnover, arguments and fighting at work, sleeping on the job, and other sources of productivity loss (Ames et al. 1997; Blum et al. 1993; Dawson 1994; Frone 2006; Lehman and Simpson, 1992; Mangione et al. 1999; Newcomb 1995). Alcohol abuse significantly affects worker productivity. A recent national survey (Frone 2006), using a probability sample of 2,805 employed adults, indicated that work-related impairment directly affects an estimated 15 percent of the U.S. workforce (19.2 million workers). Based on the results of this survey, Frone (2006) estimated that 1.83 percent (2.3 million) of workers drink before work, 7.06 percent (8.9 million) of workers drink during the workday, 1.68 percent (2.1 million) of workers work while under the influence of alcohol, and 9.23 percent (11.6 million) of workers work with a hangover. These estimates are much greater in some occupations versus others.

The estimated costs of alcohol abuse for 1998 (the last year for which costs were estimated for the United States) were $184.6 billion, more than 70 percent of which was attributed to lost productivity ($134.2 billion), including losses of $87.6 billion from alcohol-related illness (Harwood 2000). The comprehensive estimate in 1998 represented a 25 percent increase (3.8 percent per year on average) from the $148 billion estimate for 1992 (Harwood 2000). Using the 3.8 percent per year average increase, the 2010 estimate of overall costs of alcohol abuse are almost double. Employers sustain many of these costs through greater employee turnover (Hoffman and Larison 1999) and reductions in both quantity and quality of work (Mangione et al. 1999). Also, alcohol-related health care costs were estimated at $26.3 billion in 1998 (Harwood 2000). Blose and Holder (1991) found that problem drinkers required injury-related medical treatment 1.6 times more often than people who did not have drinking problems and incurred medical care costs that were three times as high.

The workplace offers many advantages as a setting for preventing alcohol problems. For example, full-time employees spend a significant proportion of their time at work, increasing the possibility of exposure to preventive messages or programs offered through the workplace. Workplace interventions can access specific groups that would otherwise be difficult to reach and, because most people are employed, reach large populations. Employers have a vested interest in keeping their employees healthy and productive. They can therefore use their influence to encourage employees to participate in prevention programs. Many employers offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) to help employees deal with personal problems, including substance abuse, that might adversely affect their work performance, health, and well-being. EAPs generally include assessment, short-term counseling, and referral services for employees and their household members. Although EAPs primarily are treatment oriented, a survey of employee assistance professionals found that most believed that prevention should have a larger role in such programs (Bennett and Attridge 2008). Also, employer health plans may offer confidential alcohol-screening services (Slavit et al. …

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