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People who abstain from alcohol are off sick more often than the average drinker - study

The lead author of the study said the findings could be explained by health problems leading to people abstaining from drink.

PEOPLE WHO DRINK in moderation take less sick days off than those who don’t drink at all, a study has found.

The study, published in Addiction, found that people who reported not drinking any alcohol over several years were absent from work more often due to illness than low-risk drinkers.

People who drank heavily each week also had lower rates of work absences than those who didn’t drink at all, according to the study.

In the study, which included adults from Finland, France, and the United Kingdom, women who reported drinking 1-11 units and men who reported drinking 1-34 units of alcohol per week were the reference group (this is the low-risk group).

(One drink/alcohol unit was estimated as 12g of alcohol. Or in practical terms, an average pint of larger has two units, a 175ml glass of wine has 2 units, and a single measure of spirits is one unit.)

Compared with them, women and men who reported no alcohol use had a higher risk of sickness absence due to mental disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, diseases of the digestive system, and diseases of the respiratory system.

Women who reported alcohol consumption of less than 11 units a week, and men who reported alcohol consumption of less than 34 units per week were at increased risk of absence due to injury or poisoning.

The study’s lead author Dr Jenni Ervasti of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health explained the findings.

“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.”

Some diseases, or their treatment, prevent alcohol use, which may explain the excess risks among abstainers.
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.

“Then, the adverse effects are not seen in absence from work due to illness.”

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