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Study: Heavy drinking linked to workplace mental health concerns

A new doctoral dissertation indicates that most frequent users of alcohol in Finland are in working life, but that the effects of heavy drinking on employees' working ability are largely unknown.

A glass of beer on a table.
"The study highlights the importance of alcohol drinking for poor mental health and calls for recognition and early prevention of heavy alcohol drinking among both the occupational and primary health care systems." Image: Jyki Lyytikkä / Yle

A new doctoral dissertation on "Alcohol drinking, health-related functioning and work disability" finds that mental health problems in the workplace such as disability pensions and many cases of sick leave in Finland are related to heavy drinking.

The study by Aino Salonsalmi, MD details three types of alcoholic imbibement: heavy weekly average drinking, binge drinking and problem drinking. All three types are connected with weakened mental and psychological functioning, while only extended problem drinking was found to affect physical functioning.

Heavy drinking is defined as a weekly minimum of 16 standard drinks for women and 24 standard drinks for men.

Closer scrutiny required

In Finland a majority of heavy drinkers of alcohol are in working life. Despite this information is scarce on the actual effects of heavy drinking on working ability and functioning.

Salonsalmi's thesis centres on the correlation between alcohol consumption and functioning at work among middle-aged municipal workers.

The results of the study call for the improvement of early identifying and preventing of heavy alcohol consumption both in workplace health services and general health care.

At the same time, the number of 15 and 16-year-olds who don't use alcohol at all has increased in Finland and in some parts of Europe over the past two decades.

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