How Overtime Can Affect Your Drinking Habits

Alcohol consumption was higher in those who had long working hours

Logging extra long hours at work might frustrate friends and family and limit free time, but can it also drive some people to drink?

A new study found that people who worked long hours during the week were more likely to display risky drinking behavior.

This new study focused on "risky" alcohol use. For this study, that meant more than 14 drinks a week for women and more than 21 drinks a week for men.

This level of alcohol use is thought to increase the risk for health problems like stroke, liver issues and heart disease. It has also been tied to other problems like traffic incidents and work issues, explained the study's authors, led by Marianna Virtanen, PhD, a professor at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki.

Another issue that has been tied to problems like heart disease, anxiety and workplace injuries is long working hours, these researchers noted. Dr. Virtanen and team wanted to see whether the two issues were related.

To do so, they looked at 61 studies involving working hours and alcohol use. These studies included people from countries around the world — including the US, Japan, Denmark, Spain and Australia.

After reviewing the data, the researchers saw evidence that working a large number of hours during the week — more than the standard 35 to 40 — was tied to risky alcohol use.

Dr. Virtanen and colleagues found that long working hours increased the chance of risky drinking by 11 to 12 percent — compared to those who didn't work long hours.

Many factors, such as individual work environments and personalities, could be at play here, Dr. Virtanen and team noted. These researchers also noted that the increases in risky drinking were not huge.

"The workplace is an important setting for the prevention of alcohol misuse because more than half of the adult population are employed," Dr. Virtanen and team wrote.

These researchers said health care professionals and the working population should discuss drinking habits and health risks.

This study was published Jan. 13 in The BMJ.

The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.