Researchers at the John Hopkins School of Public Health have found no evidence of a strong link between problem drinking and on-the-job injuries.
In fact, for young workers in the United States, common occupational injuries (excluding sprains and strains) do not appear to be strongly associated with alcohol dependence, according to a report in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
"Heavy drinking and alcohol dependence are already established as important risk factors for injuries outside the workplace and so it has often been assumed that problem drinking is responsible for many workplace injuries," said study co-author Dr. Gordon Smith, associate professor of Epidemiology and Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. "In the study, we were looking to see if the same strong connection between the two did in fact exist."
Researchers examined the relationship between heavy drinking, alcohol dependence and injuries at work by using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), an ongoing panel study funded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Researchers, working on this study, based their findings on interviews taken with 8,569 subjects in 1989 who had originally been part of an ongoing study conducted by NLSY since 1979.
The main requirement for these study subjects was that they needed to have worked for any length of time within six months of their interview.
Current drinkers were subdivided into categories: heavy or binge drinkers, those who were alcohol-dependent and other drinkers.
A study subject was defined as a current drinker if he or she had consumed alcohol within 30 days prior to the interview. A drink was defined as a can of beer, a glass of wine or a shot of hard liquor.
The study''s statistical analyses were unable to provide consistent evidence that reported heavy drinking or alcohol dependence strongly increased the risk of injury at work among young workers in the U.S. labor force.
Although the raw data initially showed those reporting one or more episodes of heavy drinking within the previous month to be approximately twice as likely to be injured on the job as those who were not currently drinking, this result became statistically insignificant once the danger of one''s job and education the job requires were taken into consideration.
The researchers concluded that because of these factors "it is impossible to make a direct link between being a heavy drinker or being alcohol-dependent and job-related injuries."
"While alcohol is clearly an important factor in most off-the-job injuries, the hazards of the workplace appear the be the most important factors for on-the-job injuries," said researchers. "More research needs to be done before any definitive conclusions can be made."
by Virginia Sutcliffe