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Employers can safely blame heavy drinking as one cause of reduced productivity and lost workdays, but a new study says it doesn’t seem to be directly linked to injuries on the job.
Mark Veazie, MD, of the University of Arizona in Tucson, says his study results do not mean drinking on the job is safe, but for some reason, the drinking is not strongly associated with injuries. Veazie studied the issue with Gordon Smith, MD, an associate professor of health policy and management with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and found that "alcohol dependence may not be strongly associated with the occurrence of everyday acute injuries at work in the young, average U.S. worker."
People who report drinking heavily do report more injuries at work, but Veazie says those injuries often can be traced to other factors. Most significantly, he says people who drink heavily are more likely to work in particularly hazardous occupations, ones requiring only a high school education or less.
Veazie says he and Smith were surprised at the results of their study because others have shown a stronger association between heavy drinking and workplace injury risk. Their study in a recent issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (2000; 12:1,811-1,819) is based on data collected over two decades. Of 8,000 worker ages 23 to 32, 2% had experienced a work injury ranging from fractures to burns, among many others.
But after adjusting the data for potentially confounding influences, the researchers found "no association between alcohol dependence and injury among current drinkers." Increasing the amount of alcohol consumed did not seem to increase the odd of sustaining an injury, the report says.