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During Great Recession employees drank less on the job, but more afterwards

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Periods of economic uncertainty tend to influence drinking problems among people who lose their jobs, as some turn to alcohol due to stress or because they have more free time and fewer responsibilities.

But what about the drinking habits of people who remain employed?

A new study from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions explored the effects of the Great Recession of 2007-09 on alcohol use among people who remained employed.

“Even among the employed, economic downturns can create sources of work-related and financial stress that may lead to lower levels of alcohol use during the workday, but higher levels of excessive and ill-timed alcohol use away from work,” says study author Michael Frone, PhD, senior research scientist at RIA.

Frone compared the results of two U.S. national surveys involving more than 5,000 employed participants. He found that compared to before the recession, drinking at work decreased, while drinking after work and excessive drinking increased during the recession.

“Despite the increased stress at work that came with the recession, employees decreased their alcohol use during the workday to avoid putting their employment in jeopardy,” Frone says. “But perhaps to reduce stress, they increased both excessive alcohol use and drinking right after work.”

The study also revealed that compared to before the recession, more middle-aged workers drank during the recession, though there was no change in the proportion of younger workers who drank. Frone attributes this age discrepancy to stronger financial and family responsibilities during middle age, which can exacerbate the stressfulness of increased work demands and job insecurity, as well as financial losses and insecurity about retirement income.

Frone says employers should be concerned if their employees increase their drinking outside of regular work hours.

“Excessive drinking can lead to absenteeism or coming to work hung over, which can affect productivity,” Frone says. “Also, increased drinking after work may lead to family problems, which can affect performance at work.”

Employers can help address potential employee drinking problems through workplace interventions that address stress during economic downturns, Frone says. More research is needed to determine best practices before the next economic crisis hits.

Frone’s study appears in the current online issue of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. It was funded through two grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


  • Pat

    “Excessive drinking can lead to absenteeism or coming to work hung over, which can affect productivity,””

    Glad to see our coperate overlords are looking out for the important things, like productivity. Who cares that your life may be in shambles, you need to sell some overpriced chinese crap at 110 percent efficiency or enjoy a life living under a bridge eating out of a safeway dumpster.

    • James Thomas

      My sentiments exactly. What’s even worse are their Libertarian and ancap poolboys hoping to join their ranks, coming to their every defence.

  • Bennigan Winchester

    I keep seeing craigslist postings where they want large pools of people in these age bracket groups over the past 5 or so years. So far I’ve seen one for alcohol, one for marijuana, and one for general illicit substance use. It was something like a couple hundred dollars over the course of a year or so with weekly data collection. Interesting to see the results of that data come full circle as an article. (I live in the Buffalo area and intermittently attend UB and I know that might not necessarily be what the info was used for, but lets put two and two together) It’s a great study, but all this is going to do is make employers make it a condition of employment to have their alcohol or substance intakes more closely monitored. In all reality, as long as your “poison” isn’t something thats going to turn you into a thief or a nutjob jumping on the hood of a strangers car at a red light in a crack fit (happened to me more than once in good old buffalo) employers shouldn’t have such a strong hold over what we do when we’re not in the office in the first place. Maybe if they paid people more and put people in positions to have more job satisfaction without always prioritizing profits and the company over good/loyal employees in the first place. I don’t personally drink. But the people I know who drink the hardest are the ones working the most miserable jobs for the least money, or working the most stressful physically demanding jobs for less money than they should be making.

    Rather than seeing over all that the employment force in general feels over worked and underpaid as a whole and that changing an otherwise not ideal working environment /labor load for people (which is one of the real issues) It’s just going to put things one step closer to “thought crimes” being a real monitored thing.

    I’d love to see a study that supported or disproved the notion Most of these people wouldn’t even be drinking as much and causing the hangovers that create losses in productivity or having absenteeism if they could just smoke a few joints after work without having to fear a random drug test and losing their stable but miserable crappy jobs in the first place.

    But lets face it, if you bust your ass for 8-12$ an hour every day for 40 hours a week around a bunch of people you can’t stand past professional courtesy with superiors riding you and no substantial monetary gain or change to quality of life in the foreseeable future, of course you want to tip more than a few back at the end of the day.

    Yeah, -alomst- everybody has to have a job, and very few people have their dream jobs or really enjoy what they’re doing in the first place despite the engineering or business/whatever bachelors/masters degree you went into debt for or the bullshit you spew at the job interview says and nobody really likes it. Of course they want to feel better after. Of course when an intoxicant that takes that much of a physical toll on the various organs and systems in the body that moderate to heavy consumption causes it screws things up. That in mind, it would make very clear sense that people would be less apt to do something that could cause them to lose their shitty hated job during a recession as its better to have a job you loathe than no job at all in most situations.

    I’m really hoping this was just part of some grad students thesis and he was looking for a quick no brainer that they knew they could clearly find the data to back up rather than some great psychology revelation.

  • Andrew Mazur

    So what your saying is if the government retrained people who were unemployed due to a recession and put them to work fixing problems in our infrastructure and our national security we would be safer, make sure we have electricity, and they would be drinking less? #politicsmakesithard