On average, about 9 percent of U.S. workers drink in ways that contribute to absenteeism, higher health care costs and lost productivity, according to an analysis of government data. But in some industries, the toll can be much higher. At 15%, hospitality tops the list of industries with a higher than average prevalence of alcohol abuse problems, followed closely by the construction industry at 14.7%, according to a new report on alcohol abuse by industry issued by Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems at The George Washington University Medical Center.
In addition, some demographics experience more problems than others. More than 18 percent of young workers between the ages of 18 and 25 have an alcohol-related problem, compared to just seven percent of workers 26 and older, and in every industry segment, men experienced more problems than women. For example, “Researchers found that men working in hospitality and construction are approximately 50 percent more likely to have an alcohol-related problem than women in the same industry. In wholesale trade, men are almost three times more likely to have an alcohol problem than women.”
Prevalence of alcohol problems by industry segment
Hospitality……………..Male 17.4%….Female 12.6%….Overall 15.0%
Construction…………….Male 15.2%….Female 10.0%….Overall 14.7%
Wholesale Trade………….Male 14.6%….Female 05.3%….Overall 11.9%
Professional…………….Male 13.3%….Female 07.1%….Overall 10.6%
Retail Trade…………….Male 13.4%….Female 06.2%….Overall 09.7%
Finance & Real Estate…….Male 11.2%….Female 07.6%….Overall 09.2%
Manufacturing……………Male 09.5%….Female 06.5%….Overall 08.6%
Transportation/Utilities….Male 09.1%….Female 04.8%….Overall 08.2%
Information/Communication…Male 12.7%….Female 04.8%….Overall 08.1%
Agriculture……………..Male 08.7%….Female 01.9%….Overall 07.2%
Other Services…………..Male 08.9%….Female 03.8%….Overall 06.4%
Education/Social Services…Male 09.4%….Female 04.3%….Overall 05.4%
Public Administration…….Male 06.4%….Female 04.1%….Overall 05.3%
Estimating costs by industry
Ensuring Solutions states that problem drinking is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing 85,000 Americans annually and draining $185 billion from the nation’s economy every year. Yet it is a problem that often stays under the radar with few of the problem drinkers identified for help. Researchers suggest this is a major public health issue, and one that employers should take the lead in addressing. similar to the way employers have led the way in addressing other public health issues such as obesity and diabetes. And as with most health problems, awareness, education, and early intervention are critical to changing behavior.
To help employers understand the workplace costs associated with alcohol abuse, Ensuring Solutions has devised a series of online alcohol cost calculators for businesses , for health plans, and for kids, as well as a return on investment calculator.
Using a hospitality industry example of 5,000 employees, here are sample results:
Likely number of problem drinkers in your workforce…458
Likely number of employees’ family members who are problem drinkers…621
Likely number of excess work days lost to sickness, injury and absence because of problem drinking …159 Days Per Month
Cost of excess lost days per year…$266,052
Likely alcohol-related health care costs…$1,962,068
Excess emergency room visits…121
Excess days in the hospital…56
Emergency department and hospital costs…$441,383
Treatment options
Ensuring Solutions offers the full report in PDF: Workplace Screening and Brief Intervention: What Employers Can and Should Do About Excessive Alcohol Use. Their website also offers guidance and many resources for addressing alcohol abuse in the workplace. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) also offers many tools and programs
And don’t forget your EAP. DOL suggests that use of an EAP is the most effective treatment modality:

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are generally the most effective vehicle for addressing poor workplace performance that may stem from an employee’s personal problems, including the abuse of alcohol or other drugs. EAPs are an excellent benefit to employees and their families and clearly demonstrate employers’ respect for their staff. They also offer an alternative to dismissal and minimize an employer’s legal vulnerability by demonstrating efforts to support employees.

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