Work stress, alcohol, and the young worker : modeling direct and interaction effects
Knudsen, Hannah K.
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While the risky drinking practices of college students have been well documented, less attention has focused on their peers who are employed in the full-time labor force. Young workers between the ages of 18 and 24 are expected to drink in patterns similar to that of college students, which will be substantially different from older workers. In addition, this research models the associations of job-related stressors, such as low job autonomy, low substantive complexity, and high job pressure, on alcohol-related measures using the “self-medication” framework. It also examines the relationship between abusive supervision and alcohol outcomes. It is hypothesized that young workers are more likely to experience negative working conditions, which results in greater alcohol consumption and greater problem drinking than older workers. Furthermore, interactions between age and these work-related variables on the alcoholrelated measures are estimated to test the argument at younger workers face unique risks due to having limited coping resources. Using data from a nationally representative sample of full-time American workers, the results indicate support for the argument that young workers engage in drinking behaviors similar to those of college students. In addition, younger workers consume more alcohol, engage in more binge drinking, and are more likely to be alcohol dependent than older workers. There is general support for the “self-medication” model of drinking behaviors, such that stressful working conditions are associated with greater alcohol consumption and problem drinking. Compared to older workers, younger workers are at greater risk of experiencing negative working conditions. There is modest support for a model that includes interaction effects, suggesting several instances where the associations are stronger for younger workers. These findings suggest that younger worker drinking is a social problem on par with that of college student drinking, and therefore warrants a similar public health response. The devotion of greater research resources towards studying younger workers and the development of targeted prevention and intervention techniques may yield important public health benefits and benefit employers.