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Estimating the cost of alcohol-related absenteeism in the Australian workforce: the importance of consumption patterns

Kenneth J Pidd, Jesia G Berry, Ann M Roche and James E Harrison
Med J Aust 2006; 185 (11): 637-641.

Summary

Objective: To estimate the extent and cost of alcohol-related absenteeism in the Australian workforce.

Design: A secondary analysis of select data obtained from 13 582 Australian workers (aged ≥ 14 years) collected as part of the 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported measures of alcohol-related absenteeism, illness or injury absenteeism and alcohol consumption categorised according to National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for short- and long-term risk.

Results: The use of self-reported measures of alcohol-related absenteeism resulted in an estimate of 2 682 865 work days lost due to alcohol use in 2001, at a cost of $437 million. The use of self-reported measures of illness or injury absenteeism to determine the extent of absenteeism attributable to alcohol use resulted in an estimate of 7 402 341 work days lost, at a cost of $1.2 billion. These estimates are about 12 to 34 times greater than previous estimates based on national data. Low-risk drinkers and infrequent or occasional risky and high-risk drinkers accounted for 49%–66% of alcohol-related absenteeism.

Conclusions: The extent and cost of alcohol-related absenteeism is far greater than previously reported, and more than half the burden of alcohol-related absenteeism is incurred by low-risk drinkers and those who infrequently drink heavily.

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  • Kenneth J Pidd1
  • Jesia G Berry2
  • Ann M Roche1
  • James E Harrison2

  • 1 National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA.
  • 2 Research Centre for Injury Studies, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA.

Correspondence: ken.pidd@flinders.edu.au

Acknowledgements: 

This study is part of a larger report that examined the alcohol consumption patterns of the Australian workforce and the implications for workplace safety and productivity, which was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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