Study: Heavy alcohol drinkers, abstainers just as likely to call in sick

June 6 (UPI) — Heavy alcohol drinkers and abstainers are more likely to take a sick day from work compared with those who drink in moderation, according to a study in Europe.

Researchers studied the relationship between alcohol use and job absenteeism in Britain, France and Finland. Their findings were published Tuesday in the journal Addiction.

“Our findings demonstrate that the U-shaped association — higher risk of sickness absence among both abstainers and average drinkers — relates to a different set of diagnosis of sickness absence for the two groups,” lead author Dr. Jenni Ervasti, of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, said in a press release.

She explained why abstainers might call in sick.

“Some diseases, or their treatment, prevent alcohol use, which may explain the excess risks among abstainers,” Ervasti said. “Moreover, participants to whom at-risk drinking causes health problems may be selected out from the labor market, that is, if they retire early or become unemployed.”

Also, abstainers were more often from poorer backgrounds, according to the research.

Surveyed were more than 47,520 people at two different points of time, including 4 to 7 years of followup. Depending on the country, data were derived from 1985 to 2004. Participants self-reported their consumption.

The categories were 0 drinks, 1-11 serving and more than 11 units per week in women and for men it was none, 1-34 and more than 34 units. One serving was considered to include 12 grams of alcohol.

Compared with moderate drinkers, abstainers were 51 percent more likely to take a mental health-related absence, 22 percent more likely because of musculoskeletal injuries, 24 percent for circulatory systems, 35 percent for diseases of the digestive system and 49 percent for diseases of the respiratory system. Injury or poisoning reasons were about the same as moderate drinkers.

Heavy drinkers were 21 percent more likely than moderate drinkers to take a mental health-related absence and 44 percent more likely to not work because of injury or poisoning. Musculoskeletal injuries, digestive, circulatory and respiratory conditions were nearly the same as moderate drinkers.