Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
High Achieving Women at Risk of Alcohol Misuse
Women executives are more likely to develop an alcohol problem than junior staff according to researchers at University College London.

Women executives drink more alcohol than men in similar grades, It is thought the stress of trying to compete with men for executive roles is partly to blame.

8,000 government employees took part in the survey of men and women working at different levels in 20 departments in London. The prevalence of problem drinking among the men was roughly the same (between 10 and 12%) from clerical right through to senior executive grades. Women at lower grades were less likely to be problem drinkers than men in comparable grades, however, senior female executives were more than three times as likely to be problem drinkers (14%) as those working in the lowest clerical grades (4%).

The employees were asked about the demands of their job, their levels of support at work and at home and the degree to which they could make and influence decisions. They were also measured on a points basis for the amount of effort they made and the rewards they received in terms of promotional prospects, pay, and the sense of feeling valued.

The object of the research was to look at whether work stress was linked to alcohol dependence, said senior lecturer in epidemiology and public health at University College London Jenny Head, who led the research. “It may be that women feel they have to compete on an equal footing and take on male roles and behaviours….People who find they put in effort and don’t feel they are getting rewards are more at risk of becoming a problem drinker…..We have already shown that stressful conditions at work can lead to poorer health for people”.

SOURCE: Head J et al. The psychosocial work environment and alcohol dependence: a prospective study. Occup Environ Med 2004;61:219-24.

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