Working long hours may be what's driving you to drink. Risky alcohol use is defined as consuming over 14 drinks a week for women and over 21 drinks for men for the same period of time. Drinking that much alcohol may keep the work blues at bay but it also increases risks for a number of health problems like cancer, stroke, and heart and liver diseases.
In a study published in the journal BMJ, researchers gathered data from over 430,000 people and discovered that those working a minimum of 49 hours a week were 13 percent likelier to indulge in risky alcohol use compared to those who logged only 35 to 40 hours of work weekly.
The connection between work hours and alcohol use is not clear so researchers looked for previous studies that offered insight on work and drinking habits.
One study analyzed 333,693 individuals across 14 countries and showed that those who worked more than 40 hours a week, no matter by how much, were 11 percent likelier to engage in risky alcohol use than those who stuck with traditional work hours. Another study involving 100,602 people in nine countries pointed out that subjects who routinely did overtime every week were 12 percent likelier than their non-workaholic counterparts to end up risky drinkers.
Collectively, people who were at work 49 to 54 hours in a week were most at risk.
These percentages may appear small but applied to the combined labor force of at least 14 countries and that's over two million people who are in danger of risky alcohol use.
Subjects self-reported information about their alcohol use. With heavy drinkers having the tendency to understate just how much they consume, there might be greater risk than what was discovered by researchers.
The BMJ study was not able to answer directly why workaholics are inclined to drink more but researchers have a few theories. First, it might be because drinking is a way of relieving stress from a hard day at work. Second, subjects may have simply subscribed to the "work hard, play hard" kind of life. Third, heavy drinkers might require more hours at work to finish their tasks, creating a reversed cause-and-effect scenario where drinking a lot causes one to have to work a lot.
Some funding support for the study was provided by the Medical Research Council, the Academy of Finland, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Finnish Work Environment Fund.