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Study links heavy alcohol use to hundreds of millions of missed workdays a year

Photo: Igor Vershinsky/iStockphoto

St. Louis — Employees with severe alcohol use disorder miss more than twice as many workdays because of illness, injury or simply skipping work, researchers from the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine say.

The researchers reviewed 2015-2019 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which includes responses from more than 110,000 U.S. adults with full-time jobs. They estimate that 9% of this group meets the criteria for alcohol use disorder, “a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse consequences in one’s social life, work life or health.” Based on that percentage, the estimate translates to roughly 11 million U.S. workers.

The respondents with severe alcohol use disorder reported missing an average of 32 workdays a year, more than double the number missed by people without the condition. For the entire U.S. workforce, that projects to about 232 million missed workdays a year.


“Alcohol use disorder is a major problem in the United States and a big problem in many workplaces, where it contributes to a significant number of workdays missed,” study author Laura J. Bierut, a professor of psychiatry at the university, said in a press release. “The problem likely has worsened during the pandemic, and we need to try to do more to ensure that people can get the help they need to deal with alcohol use disorder.”

The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

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