A new study finds a rather dire consequence of employees having to fake a smile or repress emotions at work. Evidently, it can lead to heavy drinking during off hours.

Forcing Smiles

Being a nurse, a teacher, or a customer service personnel is no easy job, especially since it entails having to interact with the public. Apart from the difficulties and challenges of the job itself, having to always keep a cordial manner when dealing with the public is also a challenge. For instance, people in such jobs have to force a smile when they don’t feel like it, or stop themselves from scowling or rolling their eyes.

A team of researchers wanted to study the drinking habits of people in such jobs, and found that those who regularly had to amplify positive emotions such as smiling, or suppress negative emotions or urges such as rolling their eyes, were heavier drinkers.

To do so, researchers used data from over 1,500 phone interviews in which U.S. workers were asked how often they fakes or suppressed emotions, and how often and how much they drink after work. Participants were also asked how impulsive they were, and how much autonomy they feel at work.


In the past, links between service workers and drinking issues were already made, but the reasons behind them were unknown. Now, researchers hypothesize that it is not merely feeling bad or stressed that have those employees going for another drink, but rather it is possibly because they have suppressed or controlled themselves so much at work that they are left unable to control themselves when they drink.

Furthermore, the relationship was stronger among those who were more impulsive and those who felt a lack of autonomy at work, perhaps from always being told what to do. It is also particularly strong in jobs with one-time interactions such as in coffee shops or in customer service, rather than in jobs that tend to foster relationships such as in schools or hospitals.

According to researchers, the results of their study might help employers to create healthier work environments for their employees, perhaps to give them a little more autonomy to feel like they have a bit of control with their work.

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