Alcohol, Smoking, Wellbeing and Health and Safety of Workers

Updated: Nov 17, 2019

Andrew P Smith

(Cardiff University, UK).

Health effects of smoking and alcohol consumption are well-documented, but further research about associations with the wellbeing of workers is required. The WHO stated that there is more to health than the absence of disease and such an approach leads to an increased emphasis on wellbeing and quality of life. The approach to wellbeing adopted here is to consider it in a holistic way which covers health, functionality and affective states. The present study involved a survey of 1392 public sector workers from South Wales, UK (74.3% female; mean age: 43.3 years, range 17-72 years). 39.3% of the sample were smokers (mean number of cigarettes a day = 11.28, range 1-40). The average weekly alcohol consumption was 9.2 units with a range of 0-100. 32.3 % consumed more than the recommended safe level (> 14 units), and 18.4% were non-consumers. Multi-variate analyses, adjusting for established predictors of the outcomes (demographics, job characteristics and psychosocial factors) showed that smokers reported more job satisfaction, had fewer injuries but had more health problems (mostly respiratory). The interaction between smoking and level of alcohol consumption was not significant. Alcohol consumption showed two different profiles of effects. Higher alcohol intake was associated with more risk-taking and cognitive failures at work. In contrast, consumption of alcohol below the recommended safe threshold (14 units/week) was associated with higher job satisfaction, fewer physical symptoms and reduced fatigue and depression. Further research using longitudinal or intervention designs is now required to elucidate underlying mechanisms and practical implications of smoking and drinking alcohol.

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