Research Shows Non-Drinkers Take More Sick Leaves than Occasional Drinkers

The study negates a common misconception that drinking alcohol occasionally makes us vulnerable to health risks.
Kashyap Vyas

A recent study published on Addiction reports about the people who abstained from drinking alcohol over the course of many years took more sick leaves due to illness than occasional or low-risk drinkers. These findings came as a result of a study done on adults from the United Kingdom, Finland, and France.

The reference group of the study was the women and men who confessed to drinking 1 to 11 units of alcohol and 1 to 34 units of alcohol weekly respectively. It is interesting to note that one drink unit is approximately equal to 12 grams of alcohol.

When this reference group was compared to the people from both the sex with no alcohol use whatsoever, the results were mind-boggling! It was deduced that abstainers were at a higher risk of absence at work due to acute illnesses such as respiratory diseases, digestive conditions, musculoskeletal disorders and mental disorders.

Further findings from the study revealed that men and women whose weekly alcohol consumption was less than 34 units and 11 units respectively, were at a substantially higher risk of poisoning or injury.

"Our findings demonstrate that the U-shaped association - higher risk of sickness absence among both abstainers and average drinkers - relates to a different set of diagnosis of sickness absence for the two groups,” said Dr. Jenni Ervasti, the lead author from Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

“Some diseases, or their treatment, prevent alcohol use, which may explain the excess risks among abstainers. Moreover, participants to whom at-risk drinking causes health problems may be selected out from the labor market, that is, if they retire early or become unemployed. Then, the adverse effects are not seen in absence from work due to illness.”


The study conducted in Europe exposed that abstainers were just as likely to take sick leave as heavy alcohol drinkers or high-risk drinkers. At the same time, people who drink in moderation are far less likely to call in sick than those who fervently abstain from its consumption.

It was a comprehensive study as more than 47,000 people were surveyed twice in addition to a follow up of 4-7 years. The data was derived between the years 1985 and 2004 from participants who reported about their consumption proclivities themselves.

As unbelievable as this study looks, it presents a different perspective altogether of the influence/role of alcohol on the health of people and thus, of the frequency of their calling in sick at their workplaces. It also negates a common misconception that drinking alcohol occasionally might make you vulnerable to health risks as a result of which, you might have to refrain from going to work each day.

However, having said that, it is clear that the study definitely does not seem to vouch for alcoholism, but claims that drinking in moderation might not be as harmful to your health as you may consider it to be!