Hospitality tops list of industries with highest rates of alcohol problems

March 25, 2008

WASHINGTON, March 25 - A new analysis of government data finds that 15 percent of employees in the hospitality industry suffer from serious alcohol-related problems. Excessive alcohol use costs U.S. employers billions in lost productivity and additional health care costs every year. According to a new report by Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems at The George Washington University Medical Center, "Workplace Screening & Brief Intervention: What Employers Can and Should Do About Excessive Alcohol Use", alcohol-related problems are disproportionately represented in American business, with employees in the hospitality, construction and wholesale industries significantly more likely to be dependent on or abuse alcohol. The report is available at http://www.ensuringsolutions.org.

Alcohol problems affect all employers, with an average of nine percent of U.S. workers drinking in ways that contribute to absenteeism, higher health care costs and lost productivity. But, Ensuring Solutions researchers found that men working in the hospitality and construction are approximately 50 percent more likely to have an alcohol-related problem than women in the same industry. In wholesale trade, men are almost three times more likely to have an alcohol problem than women. In addition, more than 18 percent of young workers between the ages of 18 and 25 have an alcohol-related problem, compared to just seven percent of workers 26 and older. (See data table below)

"Most employees represented in these numbers are not dependent on alcohol," said Eric Goplerud, PhD, director of Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems and lead researcher. "But they do use alcohol in ways that lead to short-term safety problems and long-term health consequences."

To develop a better understanding of the impact of alcohol problems in the workplace, Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems, an initiative sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts, conducted an extensive analysis of two large government-sponsored epidemiological surveys, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and the National Comorbidity Survey. This analysis estimates the workplace impact of alcohol problems -- categorized as alcohol dependence (alcoholism) and alcohol abuse -- on 13 sectors of U.S. industry.

"The impact of alcohol problems in the workplace is a tremendous hidden challenge -- in part because very few people with an alcohol problem are ever identified," said Andrew Webber, president and CEO of the National Business Coalition on Health. "In the past, employers have led the way to doing more for people with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. It's time for American industry to do the same for people with alcohol problems."

The results of the Ensuring Solutions analysis have been used to develop a Web-based calculator that employers can use to estimate the impact of alcohol problems and the potential cost savings to be gained through workplace screening and brief intervention. The calculator is available at http://www.alcoholcostcalculator.org.

In addition to analyzing the scope of workplace alcohol problems, the report promotes the adoption of a practice known as Screening and Brief Intervention (SBI). SBI has been shown to reduce excessive alcohol use when administered to patients in a variety of settings, including hospitals and universities. Ensuring Solutions believes that if SBI were to become a widespread practice in primary care, workplace wellness programs and employee assistance, the prevalence of workplace alcohol problems would be significantly reduced.

"Alcohol problems affect every workplace, with some industries paying a tremendous price." said Dr. Goplerud. "It's in the interest of every employer to do something. Screening and brief intervention is a proven approach that promises to effectively reduce workplace alcohol problems."

Table: Prevalence of Hazardous Alcohol Use by Industry Sector

-end-
NOTE: For an interview with Dr. Goplerud or an industry representative, please contact Susan Laine at 301-530-6231.

About Ensuring Solutions

Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems develops authoritative, research-based information about alcohol-related problems for business leaders, policymakers, and other working to save lives and money by increasing access to treatment. Ensuring Solutions, based at The George Washington University Medical Center, was established by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts. For more information, go to www.ensuringsolutions.org.

About The George Washington University Medical Center

The George Washington University Medical Center is an internationally recognized interdisciplinary academic health center that has consistently provided high-quality medical care in the Washington, DC metropolitan area for 176 years. The Medical Center comprises the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the 11th oldest medical school in the country; the School of Public Health and Health Services, the only such school in the nation's capital; GW Hospital, jointly owned and operated by a partnership between The George Washington University and a subsidiary of Universal Health Services, Inc.; and the GW Medical Faculty Associates, an independent faculty practice plan. For more information on GWUMC, visit www.gwumc.edu

George Washington University Medical Center

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