Per capita alcohol consumption and sickness absence


Thor Norström, Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:


Aim  The purpose of the study was to assess the relationship between aggregate alcohol consumption and sickness absence in Sweden.

Data and methods  Two indicators of sickness absence were used, one based on sickness insurance data, the other on data from the labour force surveys. Alcohol consumption was gauged by sales of pure alcohol (100%) per inhabitant 15 years of age and older. Because changes in the economy may affect alcohol consumption as well as sickness absence, two macroeconomic indicators were included as control variables: unemployment and real wages. The study period was 1935–2002. The data were analysed through the Box–Jenkins method for time-series analyses.

Findings  A 1-litre increase in total consumption was associated with a 13% increase in sickness absence among men (< 0.05). The relationship was not statistically significant for women.

Conclusions  Previous research has documented that aggregate alcohol consumption is related to a large number of harm indicators, such as cirrhosis and accident mortality. The present findings add yet another indicator to this list.