In most English-speaking countries, alcohol is widely and cheaply available. Increasingly, professionals are exposed to a culture of unsafe drinking, with total alcohol consumption on the rise in many nations. In professions across the board, the use of alcohol is commonly seen as a way to alleviate work stress as well as a social activity. Furthermore, alcoholic professionals often avoid seeking treatment through fear of professional stigma.
The International Labor Organization estimates up to 25 percent of the international work force drink heavily enough to be at risk of dependence and up to 5 percent are alcohol dependent. While select studies indicate alcohol consumption is higher among certain professions than others, difficulty in comparing data and the varying socioeconomic standings of those surveyed make interpreting findings on an occupational basis difficult.
Among the professions traditionally thought to be more susceptible than average to alcohol misuse are those of doctor, commercial airline pilot, and lawyer. All these professions have been linked to high levels of stress. Some studies have correlated occupational stress as a risk factor for alcohol dependence. Yet evidence to support such claims remains inconclusive.
According to the Office for National Statistics, in the UK, bar staff are among the professionals with the highest risk of dying from alcohol consumption. Others at above-average risk include entertainers, hairdressers, and laborers. At the opposite end of the spectrum, drivers, farmers, and those working with children are among the professionals at the lowest risk of experiencing alcohol-related problems.
Statistics reveal men in routine jobs, such as laborers and hotel porters, are at an increased risk of up to 3.5 times higher than those in professional roles, such as architects or engineers, of dying from an alcohol-related disease. Women in similar routine roles, such as cleaners and domestics, face an increased risk of up to 5.7 times higher.
Studies indicate that a stressful work environment can have an impact on a professional’s risk factor for alcohol dependence. Some professions are associated with higher levels of dissatisfaction and above-threshold levels of stress than others. In the UK, one 1997 study found that doctors have more problems with addiction than the general population. However, recent studies indicate doctors are among the least likely of professionals in the UK to die an alcohol-related death.
Alcohol dependence can have a negative knock-on effect on multiple aspects of the performance of a business or employee. Of particular concern is alcohol abuse in professions that have a direct impact on the safety of others. Workers who abuse alcohol may show some or all of the below indicators:
* Difficulty concentrating
* Reduced productivity
* Increase in mistakes
* Impairment to judgment
* Increased absence through sickness
* Morning-after hangovers
* Physical deterioration
Occupational Stress as Risk Factor for Alcohol Abuse
The results of multiple studies highlight occupational stress as a potential risk factor for alcohol abuse and dependence. Yet, while alcohol abuse can be analyzed according to profession, factors such as social class, location, education, and other underlying factors must be considered,. It is difficult to gauge accurate data and interpret findings related to the degree alcohol abuse affects certain professions.
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