Association Between Workplace Absenteeism and Alcohol Use Disorder From the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2015-2019
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is common and associated with increased morbidity. The degree to which AUD currently factors into workplace absenteeism needs further characterization in the US.
To examine the association between AUD and workplace absenteeism in a nationally representative sample.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This cross-sectional study used data from a nationally representative sample of noninstitutionalized US residents from the 2015-2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to examine the association of AUD with workplace absenteeism. Eligible respondents were aged 18 years and older who reported full-time employment. Data were analyzed from March to September 2021.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Primary outcomes were markers of workplace absenteeism as defined by the number of days missed from work because of illness or injury and days skipped from work in the last 30 days. Descriptive statistics, prevalence ratios, and logistic regression analyses were performed to assess the association between AUD and absenteeism.
A total of 110,701 adults aged 18 years and older reported current full-time employment.
- Weighted prevalence of AUD in this sample of working adults was 9.3%:
- 6.2% of respondents met criteria for mild AUD,
- 1.9% for moderate AUD, and
- 1.2% for severe AUD.
- Mean days missed from work annually increased in a stepwise fashion with increasing AUD severity:
- no AUD, 13.0 days,
- mild AUD, 17.7 days,
- moderate AUD, 23.6 days, and
- severe AUD, 32.3 days.
People with AUD represented 9.3% of the full-time workforce and contributed to 14.1% of total reported workplace absences.
Conclusions and Relevance
In this cross-sectional study, AUD was disproportionately associated with an increased prevalence of workplace absenteeism, with individuals with AUD contributing over 232 million missed workdays annually.
These results provide an economic incentive for increased investment in AUD prevention and treatment, both for employers and policymakers.
This study used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2015 and 2019. The survey is conducted every year by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and asks those above 12 years of age questions regarding alcohol and other drug use in the past 12 months.
The study aimed to find out how alcohol use disorder (AUD) affected workplace absenteeism among full-time workers. The study was conduced by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Among U.S. adults working full time an estimated 9.3% or about 11 million suffer from AUD. Alcohol use disorder was more common among men, younger people, those who identified as white or Hispanic, and those with lower incomes.
- People without AUD missed 13 days of work per year.
- People with mild AUD missed about 18 days of work, annually.
- Those with moderate AUD missed about 24 days of work each year.
- Those with severe AUD missed 32 days of work, per year.
- This is more than double the number of missed workdays compared to those without AUD.
- People with alcohol use problems accounted for 14.1% of all missed workdays.
The study found that overall full-time workers with AUD missed more than 232 million workdays annually.
The study findings provide an incentive for governments and employers to take more action to support those with AUD and prevent AUD since it affects productivity.
Often, people who miss that much work lose their jobs,” said Laura J. Bierut, MD, the Alumni Endowed Professor of Psychiatry, director of Washington University Health & Behavior Research Center, and senior investigator of the study, as per Washington University School of Medicine in St.Louis.
But our hope is that the workplace might be a point of contact where intervention can occur. You’re there eight hours a day, and when an employer begins seeing these difficulties, perhaps instead of firing a person, they could take action to assist with that individual’s recovery.”Laura J. Bierut, MD, Alumni Endowed Professor of Psychiatry, director of Washington University Health & Behavior Research Center
The researchers say the pandemic likely increased alcohol use problems and is probably having a greater impact on people and the workforce.
During the pandemic, many people lost their jobs and most others switched to working from home. This led to a disruption of the usual structure or routine employees had with work. Data from the U.S. show that alcohol use increased during the pandemic. The consequences of this rise in alcohol use are already being felt by society.
Many people lost their jobs during the pandemic while others worked at home and lost that structure. We’ve lost our guardrails for certain types of behaviors, so if anything, I think it’s likely alcohol use disorder is having a greater impact on the population and on the workforce than it did in 2019. And as our findings show, it was having a big impact in 2019,” said Ms. Bierut, MD, as per Washington University School of Medicine in St.Louis.Laura J. Bierut, MD, Alumni Endowed Professor of Psychiatry, director of Washington University Health & Behavior Research Center
Washington University School of Medicine in St.Louis: “In U.S., alcohol use disorder linked to 232 million missed workdays annually“