Study Finds Recessions Even Drive The Employed To Drink

By McCarton Ackerman 01/14/16

Even those who don’t experience the worst of a recession find solace in hitting the bottle.


A new study has found that even for those who don’t experience the worst of the recession, simply being around an economic downturn could drive them to drink more.

The findings, published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, came from scientists at the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions. Led by study author Michael Frone, PhD, they examined the rates of alcohol use among people who were able to keep their jobs during the recession of 2007-09, during which national rates of unemployment in the U.S. rose from 5% to 9.5%. The researchers analyzed the results of two phone surveys, one conducted in 2002-03 with 2,501 employees, and another conducted between 2008 and 2011 with 2,581 employees.

Frone and his team noted that alcohol use and excessive drinking outside of work increased during the recession, even for those who kept their jobs. Overall drinking also increased among middle-aged employees during the recession, but not with younger employees. Frone hypothesized that middle-aged employees typically have larger financial and family responsibilities than younger employees, and the stress often leads them to alcohol.

"Despite the increased stress at work that came with the recession, employees decreased their alcohol use during the workday to avoid putting their employment in jeopardy," he wrote. "But perhaps to reduce stress, they increased both excessive alcohol use and drinking right after work." However, Frone also noted that heavy drinking out of the office can lead to absenteeism or coming to work hungover, which can affect productivity. Also, increased drinking after work may lead to family problems, which can affect performance at work.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last November that excessive alcohol use cost the U.S. economy nearly $250 billion in 2010, or $2.05 per drink. Nearly 77% of these costs were a result of binge drinking. California bore the biggest brunt of these costs at $35 billion.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.