Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

SWCOEH’s Dr. David Gimeno authors article on the relationship between alcohol consumption and sick leave

SWCOEH’s David Gimeno, PhD, authors article on the relationship between alcohol consumption and sick leave

Houston (June 7, 2022) – David Gimeno, PhD, Director of the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH) at UTHealth School of Public Health, co-authored an article examining the differences in drinking attitudes and alcohol-related problems in the workplace.

The article, “Do Differences in Drinking Attitudes and Alcohol-Related Problems Explain Differences in Sick Leave? A Multilevel Analysis of 95 Work Units Within 14 Companies From the WIRUS Study,” was published by Frontiers in Public Health, a multidisciplinary open-access journal, in May.

The study aimed to explore the relationship of alcohol-related problems and drinking attitudes with sick leave while considering the nesting of employees inside working units within companies. The study observed higher variations of one-day, short-term, and overall sick leave days between companies than between work units within companies.

The study linked data from the WIRUS (Workplace Interventions preventing Risky alcohol Use and Sick leave) study to company-registered sick leave data for 2,560 employees from 95 different work units in 9 public and 5 private companies in Norway. Three-level (employee, work unit, and company) negative binomial regression models were estimated to explore the 12-month prospective association of alcohol-related problems and drinking attitudes with four measures of sick leave (one-day, short-term, long-term, and overall sick leave days). Models were adjusted for gender, age, cohabitation status, educational attainment, work position, and employment sector.

The study included researchers from the SWCOEH as well as colleagues in Norway and Spain.

“Naturally, researchers build networking and relationships across the world,” Dr. Gimeno said. “I was part of this research given my interest and expertise in both alcohol and sickness absence issues in the workplace. While the context in every country may differ in regards to cultural and work organization values, there are some common experiences. Alcohol-related problems remain a public health challenge everywhere and there are concerns over the role of workplaces as alcohol-stimulating environments. Cross-national collaborations help advance knowledge and produce higher generalizability, which are essential for academic and scientific accomplishment.”

“It was interesting to see larger differences in sick leave between companies rather than between working units within companies,” said Neda S. Hashemi, PhD, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Stavanger, Norway. “Also, that differences appeared to be more related to existing sick leave culture and social context than alcohol-related individual differences such as individual drinking problems or attitudes.”

With additional time and funding available, Dr. Gimeno would focus on cultural components and company policies within workplaces as well as gaining participants in the private sector.

“Further research is needed to explore if specific work organization, culture components or specific company policies and practices explain the differences in sick leave between companies,” Dr. Gimeno said. “In addition, given the context of our study, nearly 90% of the sample was employed in the public sector. Prior research suggests differences with private sector workers, who may have more positive drinking attitudes as well as more alcohol-related problems than public sector workers. So, the lack of association between drinking attitudes and problems in our study may be context dependent.”

The SWCOEH provides a variety of graduate-level training opportunities for occupational and environmental health professionals through our industrial hygiene, occupational and environmental medicine, occupational epidemiology, and Total Worker Health®.