The great Australian hangover

Drinking by Australian workers is costing more than we thought - weekly heavy drinkers are 26 times more likely to take time off work because of their drinking, according to new data from a report by Flinders University's National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA).

The negative consequences of drinking on attendance and performance - has been estimated to result in nearly 2.7 million work days lost in a single year. This equates to a cost of $437 million in wages alone (based on the 2001 average wage).

The report, Alcohol and Work - patterns of use, workplace culture and safety was launched in Adelaide by the Hon Christopher Pyne, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing.

The report, commissioned by the Australian Health Institute, also shows that almost seven per cent of the workforce had attended work while under the influence of alcohol at lease once in the previous year and indicates that the workplace impact of drinking by Australian workers may be far greater than previously estimated.

Nearly four per cent of the workforce had at least one day of work due to alcohol use in a three month period, and workers who regularly consumed alcohol at risky levels were at least 19 times more likely than low risk drinkers to have a day off.

And it's not just regular and binge drinkers to blame - there is also a strong link between absenteeism and the occasional consumption of alcohol by workers. Workers who drink even occasionally are six times more likely to miss work than their non-drinking counterparts

The report provides new data needed as the basis for developing relevant strategies and policies relating to workplace alcohol consumption.

One of the report's authors, Dr Ken Pidd, said specific industries and occupational groups and workers under 30 years of age are particularly at risk from the effects of drinking. Hospitality industry workers were the most likely to regularly consume high levels of alcohol, and nearly a quarter of workers in the mining industry engage in binge drinking at least monthly.

While in most cases males were more likely than females to drink heavily, there were exceptions. Female managers, female supervisors, and female hospitality workers were more likely than their male counterparts to regularly drink heavily.

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