Skilled trade occupations, such as construction and manufacturing jobs, are most likely to be associated with heavy drinking – while jobs such as teaching and clergy are associated with a lower likelihood, a new study suggests.
Working in certain occupations may be associated with a higher likelihood of heavy drinking in people aged 40 to 69 years old, researchers say.
Scientists say the findings could be used to help target public health or work-based interventions aiming to reduce heavy drinking.
Publicans and managers of licenced premises are almost three times more likely to be heavy drinkers, while cleaners and plasterers were twice as likely.
Clergy, physicists, geologists and meteorologists; and medical practitioners were least likely to be heavy drinkers.
The researchers from the University of Liverpool compared the chances of being a heavy drinker with various different occupations.
“We found robust evidence that publicans and managers of licenced premises were more likely to be heavy drinkers,“ the authors wrote.
Andrew Thompson, the corresponding author from the University of Liverpool, said: “Heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of physical and mental harm and by understanding which occupations are associated with heavy drinking, we can better target resources and interventions.
“Our research provides insight for policy makers and employers regarding which sectors may have the highest rates of heavy alcohol consumption.”
The authors analysed data on 100,817 adults from across the UK who were recruited to the UK Biobank between 2006 and 2010.
Participants reported their weekly or monthly alcohol intake and occupation, and 17,907 were categorised as heavy drinkers.
Women were classed as a heavy drinker if they consumed more than 35 units – the equivalent of around three and a half bottles of wine or more than 17 pints of low strength beer.
Men were classed as heavy drinkers if they consumed more than 50 units – the equivalent of five bottles of wine or 25 pints of low strength beer.
In the UK, one unit of alcohol is defined as 10 millilitres (eight grams) of pure alcohol.
Typical servings of common alcoholic drinks, such as a 175 millilitre glass of wine or a pint of beer, contain one to three units of alcohol.
Associations between occupation and heavy drinking differed in men and women, the study published in BMC Public Health found.
For men, the jobs that were most likely to be associated with heavy drinking were skilled trade occupations, while jobs classified as managers and senior officials were most likely to be associated with heavy drinking for women.
The occupations associated with the lowest rates of heavy drinking for men were clergy, medical practitioners and town planners, compared with school secretaries, biological scientists, biochemists and physiotherapists for women.
Dr Thompson said: “The observed differences for men and women in associations between occupations and heavy drinking could indicate how work environments, along with gender and other complex factors, can influence relationships with alcohol.
“Workplace-based interventions aiming to address alcohol consumption in occupations where heavy drinking is prevalent could benefit both individuals and the wider economy by improving employee wellbeing and by indirectly increasing productivity.”
The researchers caution that due to the cross-sectional nature of the study, it was not possible to establish a causal relationship between alcohol consumption and occupation.
Additionally, as the data was collected between 2006 and 2010, it is unknown whether changes in drinking behaviours have occurred since then.