Page last updated: September 26, 2012

Frequent binge drinking among women linked to unemployment but not for men

Many studies suggest that problem drinking is related to subsequent unemployment; however, the reverse association is unclear. An analysis of binge drinking as either a predictor or outcome of unemployment suggests that binge drinking among women seems to have a significant association with long-term unemployment, according to a new study from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.
Investigators analyzed data on 13,031 Swedish residents (45 % males), 20 to 59 years of age, and currently employed or on leave. The data were collected during two surveys, one in 2002 and another in 2007, and featured one question about the frequency of binge drinking. Binge drinking was defined as consuming an amount corresponding to at least 37 cl of spirits at a single occasion in 2002. In 2007, the question was changed to six or more drinks, corresponding to at least 24 cl of spirits.
“For women, binge drinking once a week or more as a predictor was associated with long-term unemployment,” said researchers. “For both men and women, initial associations between frequent binges and any unemployment were explained by the characteristics of the binge drinkers - younger, lower educational qualifications - and in addition for men, more previous unemployment.”
When analysed as an outcome of unemployment, there were no associations between unemployment and later binge drinking for men. Conversely, there were initial associations between long-term unemployment and frequent binges for women, but this was explained by the characteristics of those who became unemployed, such as prior drinking habits.
“These gender differences reflect the fact that frequent binge drinking probably is a stronger marker for problem drinking for women, as it is less common, and not ‘normalized’ to the extent that it is for men,” said researchers. “Also, the measure itself may be biased as it refers to the same level of consumption for both men and women, even though women’s tolerance levels for alcohol tend to be lower.”
Source: Exploring the two-way linkages between binge drinking and unemployment. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 15 August 2012


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