BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Workplace alcohol use and impairment directly
affects an estimated 15 percent of the U.S. workforce, or 19.2
million workers, according to a recent study conducted at the
University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) and
reported in the current issue of the Journal of Studies on
Information about workplace alcohol use and impairment during
the previous 12 months was obtained by telephone interviews from
2,805 employed adults residing in the 48 contiguous states and the
District of Columbia. The sample of participants was designed to
reflect the demographic composition of the adult civilian U.S.
workforce from ages 18-65.
Interviews were conducted from January 2002 to June 2003. Those
interviewed were asked how often during the previous year they
drank alcohol within two hours of reporting to work, drank during
the workday, worked under the influence or worked with a
This is the first study of workplace alcohol use to utilize a
representative probability sample of the U.S. workforce.
Based on those responses, Michael R. Frone, Ph.D., principal
investigator on the study, estimates that 2.3 million workers (1.8
percent of the workforce) have consumed alcohol at least once
before coming to work and 8.9 million workers (7.1 percent of the
workforce) have drank alcohol at least once during the workday.
Most workers who drink during the workday do so during lunch
breaks, though some drink while working or during other breaks.
Frone, research associate professor in Department of Psychology
in the UB College of Arts and Sciences, estimates that 2.1 million
workers (1.7 percent of the workforce) worked under the influence
of alcohol and 11.6 million workers (9.2 percent of the workforce)
worked with a hangover.
Nonetheless, the study, funded by the National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, suggests that most workplace alcohol
use and impairment does not occur frequently. Among those employees
who report drinking before work, 71 percent reported doing so less
than monthly, 25 percent
monthly, and only four percent, weekly. For those who drank
during the workday, 62 percent did so less than monthly, 24 percent
monthly, and 14 percent weekly.
The study found that workplace alcohol use and impairment was
more prevalent among men compared to women. Also, working under the
influence of alcohol or with a hangover was more prevalent among
younger workers compared to older workers and among unmarried
workers compared to married workers.
Among the broad occupation groups showing the highest rates of
workplace alcohol use and impairment were the management
occupations, sales occupations, arts/entertainment/sports/media
occupations, food preparation and serving occupations, and building
and grounds maintenance occupations.
Workers on the evening shift and night shift and those working a
nonstandard shift involving irregular or flexible work hours were
more likely to report drinking before coming to work compared to
workers on a regular day shift. Those working a nonstandard shift
were also more likely to use alcohol during the workday and report
being at work under the influence of alcohol.
Prior to this study, very little data existed on the prevalence,
frequency and distribution of alcohol use and impairment at the
A primary goal of the study was to inform managers,
policymakers, and researchers so that all stakeholders have a
better understanding of the extent of alcohol use and impairment in
the workplace when formulating policy and exploring causes and
"Of all psychoactive substances with the potential to impair
cognitive and behavioral performance, alcohol is the most widely
used and misused substance in the general population and in the
workforce," Frone stated. "The misuse of alcohol by employed adults
is an important social policy issue with the potential to undermine
employee productivity and safety."
Frone contends that the impact of employee alcohol use on
productivity and safety may not be understood until closer
attention is paid to the context in which drinking occurs. "The
context of alcohol use -- off the job vs. on the job -- is
important to an understanding of the productivity implications (job
attendance vs. job performance and safety) of that use," he
The Research Institute on Addictions has been a leader in the
study of addictions since 1970 and a research center of the
University at Buffalo since 1999.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the
State University of New York.