Hospitality Industry Highest for Problem Drinkers, Study Says

The hospitality industry has the highest prevalence of workers with alcohol problems, at 15.0 percent -- nearly twice the approximately 8 percent of the U.S. population with a diagnosable alcohol problem, according to a new study conducted by Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems, which is based at The George Washington University Medical Center. The report says construction and mining rank second in overall prevalence, at 14.7 percent, followed by wholesale trade (11.9 percent).

The report (www.ensuringsolutions.org/usr_doc/Workplace_SBI_Report_Final.pdf) says 82 percent of Americans who have alcohol abuse disorders are working, and male employees are more than twice as likely as female employees to have an alcohol problem. Young workers are inordinately represented, with more than 18 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds being problem drinkers and 40 percent of workers in this age group engaging in binge drinking. This causes young workers to suffer accidental injuries and to be less productive, the report states.

Citing an earlier Ensuring Solutions study, the report says this problem causes 500 million lost work days annually, representing a very high cost borne by employers. A hotel chain with 20,000 workers that operates nationwide would accrue $8.9 million in alcohol-related health care and absenteeism costs in one year, the researchers estimate. The report recommends that employers use Workplace SBI (Workplace Screening and Brief Intervention), in which trained interviewers ask about drinking amounts, frequency, and consequences. Brief counseling sessions follow if the individual's responses indicate he or she is engaged in risky drinking. Drinkers who receive this type of intervention are twice as likely to reduce their drinking as those who do not, and SBI has been shown to be a cost-effective treatment, the report says.

Confidential SBI can be offered to workers through an Employee Assistance Program, health promotion and wellness programs, new employee orientations, health fairs, employer-sponsored health plans, rehab programs, disease management programs, and occupational health clinics, it says.

The report includes a Workplace SBI Model in chart form and a section about the Baylor College of Medicine's SBI program in Houston, which uses it to identify and initially treat employees with substance abuse who are in its 9,000-person workforce.

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