Objectives: The aim of the study was to estimate the impact of psychosocial work-environment factors, such as low work control, on alcoholism among young men.
Methods: Data on circumstances during childhood and adolescence, such as on risk use of alcohol, were collected for 49,323 young men, born 1949 to 1951 at time of enlistment for compulsory military training in 1969/1970. On the basis of census data on occupation in 1975, all individuals were classified into groups with regard to psychosocial work-environment factors in accordance with a job-exposure matrix. Follow-up for alcoholism diagnoses from inpatient care registers (1976 to 1983) was undertaken for each of the groups. A number of potential confounding factors were taken into account
Results: Low work control and also low job demands and low workplace social support were found to be related to later alcoholism. On separate analysis, the pattern among blue-collar workers was found to be similar to that of the entire population. When the analyses were extended to include indicators of risk use of alcohol and other relevant background factors, the relative risks decreased, but were still significantly high in the cases of low work control and low work social support. A combination of low demands and low control, what might be called a "passive" work environment, was related to an increased relative risk of psychiatric alcoholism diagnosis after controlling for relevant background factors.
Conclusions: Low work control, in particular in combination with low work demands, and low work social support are related to later alcoholism even after controlling for previously known risk factors (including risk use of alcohol). The results suggest that young men may respond to an undemanding occupational environment by increasing their alcohol consumption.