Study Finds Correlation between Rapid Rise in Unemployment and Alcohol Abuse
A rapid rise in unemployment can be linked to an increase in suicides, homicides, and alcohol abuse, according to a recent study reported in the "Lancet" medical journal. The study, "The public health effect of economic crisis and alternative policy responses in Europe: an empirical analysis," found that a rise of 3 percent in unemployment is associated with a 28 percent increase in deaths from alcohol abuse and a 4.5 percent increase in suicides in the population younger than age 65. The study comes as the country prepares for Drug-Free Work Week, which will be held Oct. 19-25.
Because of widespread concern that the present economic crisis, particularly its effect on unemployment, will adversely affect population health, the research team investigated how economic changes have affected mortality rates over the past three decades in European Union countries. The research team, which is comprised of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco; University of Oxford, and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, used data from the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization. They analyzed more than 50 causes of death in 26 EU countries between 1970 and 2007 and compared the results to unemployment data. They also examined the different levels of government social spending during the same period, taking into account other factors that might affect rising death rates, such as population aging and the different ways that countries monitor employment rates and causes of death.
The stress of recessions, particularly of unemployment, seemed to markedly increase rates of death from intentional violence, with women particularly affected by homicide and men by suicide, according to study results.
“Suicides are just the tip of the iceberg” said lead author David Stuckler, PhD, of the University of Oxford and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Rising suicide rates are a sign of many failed suicide attempts and high levels of mental distress among workers and families.”
Employers need to be aware that workers often turn to alcohol during times of stress and need to be aware of the signs of alcohol abuse. For help on launching a workplace substance abuse prevention program, visit the Department of Labor’s Working Partners Web site.
A full copy of “The public health effect of economic crisis and alternative policy responses in Europe: an empirical analysis” is available here.
Drug-Free Work Week is a dedicated time each year to highlight the benefits that drug-free workplace programs bring to employers, workers and communities. It’s sponsored by the Department of Labor. For tips on how to get involved in this observance, visit the DOL’s Working Partners Web site.