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Stressful jobs can lead to alcohol abuse.
May 30, 2017

How Chronic Work Stress Is a Leading Cause of Alcohol Abuse in Men

Stressful jobs can lead to alcohol abuse.Stress at work puts men at higher risk of alcohol abuse. Get more acquainted with the one occupational hazard every man needs to know about:

The fact that chronic work stress is a leading cause of alcohol abuse in men is worth emphasis during Men’s Health Month. The goal of this annual national initiative is to raise awareness about preventable health problems and the treatment of diseases among men and boys, and it could be argued that drug and alcohol addiction disproportionately affects men.

Consider the following statistics cited in a report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, for example:

  • Men are more likely than women to use almost all types of illicit drugs.
  • Illicit drug use is more likely to result in emergency department visits or overdose deaths for men than for women.
  • Men have higher rates of use or dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol than do women.

With respect to alcohol, too, men traditionally have monopolized rates of heavy and binge drinking (until more recently when women have begun to narrow the gap). One reason for this trend can be stress at work, giving rise to alcohol abuse—which is the main focus of this article. In particular, we’ll address:

  • The nature of chronic job stress and its toll on mental health
  • How chronic job stress affects alcohol consumption and men’s drinking habits in particular
  • A quick survey of majority-male jobs that evidence the highest rates of alcohol abuse across industries

Chronic Stress at Work – Common Job Stressors Among Men

Chronic job stress is common among working Americans—perhaps especially among men, who are more likely to be stressed from work than from other factors, according to a study in Business News Daily. Stress at work can have various triggers. These work-related stressors can be short-term, such as the rush to meet a deadline or put on a presentation, but all too often, stress at work falls into the long-term (chronic) category, as a 2013 study by the American Psychological Association (APA) found. Their one-third of working Americans reported experiencing chronic job stress.

Common causes of chronic job stress can include:

  • A low salary
  • Too much work in too little time
  • Consistently long hours and overtime
  • Little control over occupational decisions
  • Discord in the workplace
  • Lack of social support
  • On-the-job boredom or lack of stimulation
  • Conflicting demands or lack of clear expectations regarding job responsibilities
  • Rigid hours and work schedule
  • A sense of job insecurity

The Link Between Stress at Work and Problem Drinking

Stress at work has been shown to contribute to a number of serious health issues, one of which is problem drinking. There is, in fact, “a significant relationship” between job stress and alcohol consumption, in the words of the Mental Health Foundation. The following data (from an abundance on the subject) helps to unpack this relationship:

  • Chronic stress is a known risk factor for drug abuse and addiction, according to the New York Academy of Sciences.
  • In men and women, work stress is one of two major predictors of heavy drinking, according to a study in the journal, Alcohol Research & Health. (The other major predictor, work-family conflict, is also at least somewhat related to occupational stress).
  • The APA has reported that work is the second biggest and most reported cause of stress among Americans, and stress—a well-known contributor to mental disorders like addiction.

How Chronic Job Stress Affects Men’s Use of Alcohol

Still other research tells the story of how chronic job stress more uniquely affects men and their use of alcohol:

  • Men are reportedly more likely to experience major depression as the result of job insecurity (one common cause of work-related stress), for example; and strikingly, alcohol is involved in 70 percent of all male suicides.
  • Men are also more likely than women to use alcohol as a stress coping device—engaging in stress-related binge drinking at a rate 1.5 times that for women, according to a study cited by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse.
  • In another University of Vermont study, men problem drinkers were more likely to drink when they felt angry. (Job stress is one of the more obvious sources of anger and frustration.)

Men, Stress, and Addiction – Professions With Highest Rates of Alcohol Abuse

Professions with high rates of alcohol abuse also tend to be predominantly male. For instance, the (mostly male) mining and construction industries exhibited the highest rates of alcohol abuse (roughly 20 percent) when compared with other industries in a national survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Police and firefighters also report heavy alcohol use. In a study featured in the Journal of Substance Abuse & Alcoholism, more than half of all male firefighters said they binge drank during the last month.