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If you burn the midnight oil, you’re also more likely to hit the bottle—hard. People who work more than 50 hours a week are more likely to have problems with alcohol than those who clock out after 8 hours, finds a new study. (As if you didn’t have enough to worry about, right?)
“Almost 1 in 6 people working 50 plus hours per week will have a diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependence,” said Sheree Gibb, Ph.D., the study’s lead author. “That’s compared to less than 1 in 8 who are working a 30- to 49-hour week, and only 1 in 17 who are not working at all.”
This increase in boozing may be for stress relief, or possibly because jobs with long hours often come with a party culture, according to the study.
“Often people who work long hours will go home and have a beer or two to help relieve stress, maybe so they can get to sleep,” says Victor Hesselbrock, Ph.D., the interim chairman of the University of Connecticut Alcohol Research Center. “But as they develop a tolerance, they have to increase the number of drinks to get the same effect.” By the time they have to down four or five beers a day after work it is very hard to not have some form of alcohol abuse, says Hesselbrock.
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Officially, abuse starts to occur when you begin drinking in the morning, you’re not only late but miss appointments, or get in booze related legal trouble such as DUIs.
Of course, you’re not destined to Alcoholics Anonymous if you grab a beer or two after a stressful day at work. But here’s the thing: alcohol doesn’t actually calm you down when you’re stressed anyway. A recent study by the University of Chicago found that guys who had the equivalent of two shots right after a stressful situation were three times as anxious as their sober brethren 30 minutes later. Even after an hour and a half, the boozing guys still felt more stressed.
Your move: Don your running shoes and pound some pavement when you’re stressed, then meet the guys for a beer.
And if you experience the warning signs of dependence, cut back. Early symptoms include drinking at times of the day you normally wouldn’t, such as having a beer at lunch when you usually drink on the weekends, and increasing the number you put away during an outing.