• Absenteeism;
  • alchohol;
  • Australia;
  • drinking patterns;
  • survey;
  • workforce;
  • work-place


Aims  To examine the relationship between Australian workers' patterns of alcohol consumption and absenteeism.

Design  A secondary analysis of the 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey data.

Setting  Australia 2001.

Participants  A total of 13 582 workers aged ≥14 years.

Measurements  Alcohol consumption levels associated with National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for short- and long-term harm were identified and compared with self-reported measures of absenteeism due to alcohol use and due to any illness/injury.

Findings  More than 40% of the Australian work-force consumed alcohol at risky or high-risk levels at least occasionally. High-risk drinkers were up to 22 times more likely to be absent from work due to their alcohol use compared to low-risk drinkers. Short-term high-risk drinkers were also significantly more likely to be absent from work due to any illness or injury than employed low-risk drinkers. Young employees and males were more likely to report alcohol-related absenteeism compared to older workers and females.

Conclusions  The relationship between workers' alcohol consumption patterns and absenteeism is more substantial than previously recognized or documented. Alcohol-related absenteeism is not restricted to small numbers of chronic heavy drinkers, but also involves the much larger number of risky non-dependent drinkers who drink less frequently at risky levels. To improve workers' health and wellbeing and enhance productivity and economic prosperity, appropriate education, prevention and policy strategies are warranted and necessitate revision of previously narrow approaches undertaken with work-place programmes.