About Wellness Corporate Solutions

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Alcoholism and Employee Wellness Programs

It's rarely Topic A in the corporate wellness industry, but the U.S. companies' productivity losses from alcoholism are huge.

Well, according to a new report by Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems at The George Washington University Medical Center, nearly a one in 10 U.S. workers have a drinking problem that affects their job--contributing to absenteeism, higher health care costs and lost productivity, among other issues.

Basically, it’s a billion dollar problem.

Interestingly, this report shows that all businesses are not equal when it comes to this issue. The overall prevalence alcohol abuse by industry:
Hospitality 15%
Construction 14.7%

Wholesale Trade 11.9%

Professional 10.6%

Retail Trade 9.7%

Finance & Real Estate 9.2%

Manufacturing 8.6%

Transportation/Utilities 8.2%

Info/Communication 8.1%
Agriculture 7.2%

Other Services 6.4%
Education/Social Services 5.4%
Public Administration 5.3%
The results also vary by age and sex. For example, workers under 25 are more than twice as likely to have an alcohol-related problem than older ones. And men are much more likely than women to be problem drinkers, no matter their profession.

Two important quotes on workplace alcohol programs in a press release from GW:
“Most employees represented in these numbers are not dependent on alcohol,” said Eric Goplerud, PhD, director of Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems and lead researcher. “But they do use alcohol in ways that lead to short-term safety problems and long-term health consequences.”
“The impact of alcohol problems in the workplace is a tremendous hidden challenge—in part because very few people with an alcohol problem are ever identified,” added Andrew Webber, president and CEO of the National Business Coalition on Health. “In the past, employers have led the way to doing more for people with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. It’s time for American industry to do the same for people with alcohol problems.”
That’s an excellent point. Like some wellness companies, my firm has addressed this with clients before, helping to implement awareness, education and early intervention initiatives, as well as Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs.

If you’re interested in learning more, the Ensuring Solutions website has some great resources, including the full report on “Workplace Screening and Brief Intervention: What Employers Can and Should Do About Excessive Alcohol Use.

There’s also a great calculator that can help you estimate the financial impact of alcohol problems on your workplace, along with the potential ROI of workplace screenings and other interventions.

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