HR Strange But True!
June 08, 2006

Everyone has heard the adage that drink is the curse of the working classes (or Oscar Wilde's counterclaim that work is the curse of the drinking classes). Now, a recent study suggests that drink may also be the curse of the working classmates.

Based on data compiled from 2002 to 2004, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that roughly one-third of the nation's youths aged 15 to 17 were employed either part or full time during the past week. That's the good news.

The bad news is that drinking and drug use is more prevalent among youths who work than among those who do not. Research shows that the more hours adolescents work, the more likely they are to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and use marijuana.

Employed youths were more likely than youths who were not employed to have used alcohol (35.9 percent vs. 24.4 percent), to have engaged in binge alcohol use (24.6 percent vs. 15.2 percent), and to have used an illicit drug (19.4 percent vs. 15.6 percent) during the past month. Binge alcohol use is defined as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past 30 days.

Those findings were consistent regardless of gender, locale, and family income relative to the Federal poverty threshold.

Youths working 20 or more hours per week were more likely than those working 19 or fewer hours per week to have drunk alcohol (41.1 percent vs. 33.8 percent), to have binged on alcohol (29 percent vs. 23.1 percent), and to have used any illicit drug (22.3 vs. 18.5 percent) during the past month.

The study showed that alcohol and drug testing has some -- but not much -- effect on youthful drinking and drug use. Past-month alcohol use was higher among youths employed at a workplace that did not conduct alcohol testing than among youths employed at a workplace that did (37.2 percent vs. 32.8 percent). However, the rate of illicit drug use did not differ significantly between youths employed at workplaces that conducted drug testing and those employed at workplaces that did not.

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

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