Working-age Americans are increasingly struggling with excessive drinking. While rates of excessive drinking have been steadily climbing over the years, experts think that the COVID-19 pandemic ramped things up. A study published in late 2021, aimed to examine increased alcohol consumption during the first year of the pandemic. Using data from a national survey of U.S. adults on their drinking habits, researchers found that excessive drinking increased by 21% between February and November of 2020. With trends like this, it is reasonable for employers to have some concerns about workers’ excessive drinking.
Recently, many employers have been extremely focused on the legalization of marijuana, and its impact on the workplace. The misuse of alcohol, however, is a concern that should not be overlooked. In the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more 138 million respondents admitted to being current alcohol users; a rate much higher than the 60 million Americans who admitted to using illicit drugs. Of those 138 million current alcohol users, 61.6 million classified themselves as “binge” drinkers and 17.7 million said they were “heavy” drinkers.
Employees who are “heavy” or “binge” drinkers may also consume alcohol on the job. According to a study from American Addiction Centers, 66% of people admitted that they have once used alcohol during work hours. Additionally, 4.4 % of those who work from home admitted to using alcohol during work hours weekly, where as 2% of office workers admitted the same.
However, it’s not just on the job drinking that is a safety concern. Workers' excessive drinking tends to lead to problems the morning after. Hangovers can have a noticeable effect on an employee’s behavior and mental processing capabilities. Although the employee may no longer have alcohol in their system, they may have decreased attention and memory, and poorer concentration. Hangovers can even effect coordination and reaction time. All of which can have a disastrous impact on workplace safety.
Signs of alcoholism in the workplace
- Appears hungover or is still intoxicated
- Frequently late to work or absent
- Lack of coordination
- Has bloodshot or glossy-looking eyes
- Slow pupil response
- Inability to complete work assignments
- Sweating heavily
- Slurred speech
- Confrontational behavior toward coworkers
The toll of excessive drinking
Employees who experience issues with drinking can quickly become a cost burden to employers. Those who are struggling may frequently miss work. If they do come in, their drinking habits not only increases the risk of injury and on the job accidents but also can affect productivity. Figures from the CDC estimate that excessive alcohol use’s effect on productivity alone costs 179 billion dollars.
However, employers’ bottom line is not the greatest loss when it comes to excessive drinking. According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in eight Americans aged 20 to 64 lost their lives as a result excessive drinking from 2015-2019. For those Americans aged 20 to 49, their prime working years, excessive alcohol consumption was responsible for one in five deaths.
The CDC also separately released data that offers additional insight into how COVID-19 affected drinking habits. They found that alcohol-related death rose by 26% from 2019 to 2020, killing nearly 50,000 people in 2020 alone. While the number of alcohol-related deaths have been steadily increasing over the past few decades, 26% is a huge jump. From 2000 through 2018, age-adjusted alcohol-related deaths never rose at a rate higher than 7% annually. This rapid increase in alcohol-related deaths is more evidence that excessive drinking itself is on the rise.
Alcoholism in the Workplace. Alcohol Rehab Guide. (2022, September 21). Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://www.alcoholrehabguide.org/resources/alcoholism-workplace/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, November). Alcohol-induced death rates in the United States, 2019–2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/121795
Marissa B. Esser, P. D. (2022, November 1). Estimated deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use among us adults. JAMA Network Open. Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2798004