One in five British workers report they have felt pressured to consume alcohol at work events, according to a survey of 3,000 workers by UK Addiction Treatment Group. The poll suggests this could mean roughly seven million British employees are regularly consuming alcohol even though they would actually prefer to stay alcohol-free.
Experts say pressure to belong to the social group and the intention of employees to build relationships with bosses while socialising are underlying factors that multiply the effects of the pressure to consume alcohol, according to Daily Mail reporting.
The survey also revealed gender and age differences in alcohol use pressures at work:
- A quarter of men felt pushed by their superiors to consume alcohol,
- One in ten women felt pressured by their bosses to engage in alcohol use.
- A third of 25 to 30-year-olds reported consuming alcohol due to work pressure.
- “Just” one in ten 50 to 59-year-olds reported consuming alcohol due to work pressure.
- Half of 18-year-olds said their boss pressured them to consume alcohol.
Pervasive alcohol norm and all-time high in alcohol harm
This pervasive and oppressive alcohol norm is alarming, especially seen in the context of the all-time high in alcohol deaths in Britain.
In the end of January, Movendi International reported about new analysis from Oxford University. It revealed an increase in alcohol deaths in the UK after the coronavirus pandemic.
The survey findings reveal an oppressive and pervasive alcohol norm in British workplaces. This matters even more so in light of recent NHS data showing that alcohol deaths reached an all-time high in 2021. Some 9,641 people died as a result of alcohol.
The research, based on Office of National Statistics (ONS) data, shows the number of people who died directly due to the effects of alcohol. For example, liver disease deaths due to alcohol soared to 9,641 in 2021 from 7,565 in 2019.
Understanding, revealing, and challenging the alcohol norm
The pressure to consume alcohol, despite a person’s preference to stay alcohol-free is a dominant factor of the alcohol norm in many countries.
IQ is an independent subsidiary of Systembolaget, the Swedish government’s alcohol retail monopoly. IQ works to improve the knowledge base around alcohol in Swedish society and runs mass media campaigns to expose and challenge the alcohol norm.
In a remarkable and widely noticed campaign in 2013, IQ directed the focus on the pressure to conform with the alcohol norm and consume alcohol. But instead of booze, it’s cookies that were used in the campaign to reveal and challenge the alcohol norm.
With the campaign IQ revealed that eight out of ten people in Sweden feel that there is an expectation of consuming alcohol in social contexts.
60% of people in Sweden say that at some point they have experienced pressure from someone else to consume alcohol.
At the time IQ’s CEO Magnus Jägerskog said:
The survey shows that there is a lot of nagging at people to get them to drink alcohol.
For us, it is important to raise the question why this is the case.”Magnus Jägerskog, CEO, IQ
A 2019 report provided more data and deeper insights into the oppressive alcohol norm in Sweden. As Lucas Nilsson presented in a Movendi International blog post, the alcohol norm in Sweden doesn’t reflect people’s real preferences and wishes, but only those of the alcohol industry.
- Very few people in Sweden give alcohol the amount of social significance that manifests in the culture. When asked whether alcohol is important for a successful social event, the vast majority says no.
- There is also a real demand for more social spaces that are free from alcohol.
- There is a large group of people in Swedish society who consume alcohol – even though they do not want to.
Lucas Nilsson wrote:
When excluding all non-consumers of alcohol, around 15% of the adult (18+) population still said that they want to live a life free from alcohol, but do not.
When only looking at young people (18-29 years of age), the figure grows to over 20%. That amounts to about a million of Sweden’s rather small population of ten million people who consume alcohol even though they do not want to. That is a significant number.”Lucas Nilsson, former CEO, Nocturum, and author of the report “‘Den förtryckande alkoholnormen’ (lit. The oppressing alcohol norm)
In 2021, Movendi International launched the program and material “Jobbfesten” together with Nocturum. The purpose is to better support workplaces to work preventively and create environments where everyone can feel safe and included. The material “Jobbfesten” provides solid tips for arranging healthy, inclusive, and safe work parties, conferences, meetings, kick-offs and also in working life in general.