Associations between work stress, alcohol consumption and sickness absence

Addiction. 1998 Feb;93(2):231-41. doi: 10.1046/j.1360-0443.1998.9322317.x.


Aims: To test an interactional model on the associations between work stressors, perceived stress, alcohol consumption and sickness absence.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: The study was part of a Worksite Health Project including an Employee Assistance Programme and a Health Promotion Programme in the Netherlands.

Participants: Participants were blue-collar workers from two Municipal Garbage Collecting Departments and white-collar workers from a Pharmaceutical Company (N = 471).

Measurements: Measurements included socio-demographic characteristics (gender, age, education, marital status), work stressors, perceived stress, alcohol consumption and sickness absence. Type of work-site (blue- or white-collar) and smoking behaviour were used as covariates.

Findings: Regression analyses resulted in three major findings. First, in the presence of stress, abstinence increased the risk of sickness absence compared with moderate drinking. We failed to find a significant relationship between excessive drinking and sickness absence. Secondly, stress mediated the associations between stressor and alcohol consumption, and between stressor and sickness absence, although stressors also directly predicted sickness absence.

Conclusions: The association between abstinence and sickness absence could reflect medical problems of abstainers or a lack of skills for coping with stress. The failure to find a significant detrimental effect of excessive drinking may have been due to use of a low threshold for excessive drinking and/or low power. Prospective studies are needed to gain insight in causal relationships between the variables concerned.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Sick Leave
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*