There is growing concern about the relationship between health-related behaviour and employment status. Data from the Scottish Heart Health Study included information on the self-reported drinking habits of 4170 full-time employed and 479 unemployed men. This enabled the patterns of alcohol consumption in the unemployed to be compared to those of the full-time workers. There were appreciable differences in both frequency and quantity of reported alcohol consumption between the two groups and a higher percentage of the unemployed reported being non-drinkers. Nevertheless, the unemployed drinkers drank more alcohol than those in employment, even after standardization for both age and social class (27.9 units vs 20.7 units per week). Binge drinking was common in both groups, but the proportion was higher among the unemployed (58.8% of the unemployed reported drinking more than eight units in any day in the previous week compared to 33.5% among the full-time workers). In an attempt to validate these findings and to assess the possible health consequences of heavy drinking, serum gamma-glutamyltransferase levels were analysed. Overall, the unemployed were found to have higher levels, this finding being largely influenced by the excess of heavy drinkers. The reasons behind these differences in drinking behaviour between the employed and unemployed need to be identified before any cause and effect hypotheses can be generated, and counselling given where needed.