Study by UB's RIA confirms link between alcohol consumption, work absence

May 09, 2002

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Alcohol consumption is predictive of workplace absenteeism on a day-to-day basis, with employees nearly two times more likely than normal to call in sick the day after alcohol is consumed, according to a study conducted at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA).

The study examined the day-to-day relationship between alcohol use and workplace absenteeism among 280 employees of three large companies, Ford Motor Co., National Cash Register and General Electric. Data were collected from the employees themselves, a friend or family member familiar with their drinking behavior and records from the human resource departments of the three companies.

Results of the study by William Fals-Stewart, Ph.D., RIA investigator and research associate professor in UB's Department of Psychology, and Susan F. McFarlin, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., were published in the March issue of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Funding for the study was provided by two grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse totaling $4 million.

"A national telephone survey conducted in 2000 found that on the day after a drinking episode, a work absence was more than three times more likely than on a day after which there was no drinking," Fals-Stewart noted.

"The purpose of our study was to extend that work by collecting not only self-reports about drinking as the previous study had, but collateral information as well. Our results show a significant relationship between alcohol use and workplace absences."

Data were collected using a calendar and other memory aids over a four-week period. A "collateral informant," identified by the employee, also was interviewed about the employee's drinking. The information about day-to-day drinking from employees showed substantial agreement with that provided by the "collateral informant." Data regarding missed days of work were compiled from human resource departments in the three companies.

Of the 280 participants, 69, or 25 percent, reported that they had been absent from work because of illness for at least one day in the four-week period. For these individuals, the average number of days absent for the month was 2.5. The average number of days of alcohol use for the four-week period was 7.1. Of the 280 participants, 235, or 84 percent, reported drinking alcohol on at least one occasion during the previous month. Of those who drank, the average number of days of drinking was 8.4.

The researchers did not consider what amount or type of alcohol was consumed. They also did not explore drinking on the job or work injury.

University at Buffalo

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