Linwood Group asks is the recession driving UK professionals to drink? Commenting on recent research they reveal five signs that challenging economic conditions are exacerbating an alcohol problem. As economic conditions deteriorate, treatment specialists are reporting sharp increases in people with demanding jobs seeking alcohol abuse help, especially from the financial services sector.
Workplace stress correlates closely with heavy drinking, as does the threat of redundancy. Add to that the general problems of mounting consumer debt, spiralling household bills and a fall in property values, and you've got the perfect conditions for an alcohol problem to escalate," explains Sue Allchurch, research director at Linwood Group.
Contrary to the popular stereotypes of alcoholics, middle-class professionals are in fact at particular risk from alcohol dependence, according to figures released last year by the Office for National Statistics.
Some 43 per cent of those in ' managerial and professional' occupations exceed healthy drinking limits, compared to 31 per cent among those in 'routine and manual' jobs. Among those in the highest social category - top managers and large employers - 49 per cent drank too much.
And in the population at large, several studies have provided robust evidence that the prevalence of alcohol abuse is strongly connected to the psychological stress of economic recessions.
For those faced with cutbacks at work and the need to meet demanding targets under challenging conditions, the temptation to 'self-medicate' may be strong, warns Sue Allchurch. And while outwardly high-achieving and super-competent, many professionals feel under enormous pressure to hide the stress they feel - and their reactions to it - from their families, friends and colleagues.
But there are clear signs to look out for, she adds. These include:
1. Finding excuses for drinking - bad news at work or giving departing employees "a good send-off" regularly turns into a long evening in the pub.
2. A drop-off in performance - taking days off, being late for work or simply not being 'on the ball', because you've got a hangover. Needing a lunchtime drink to counteract the effects of last night's drinking
3. Missed targets and appointments - procrastination and forgetfulness have become a habit due to heavy drinking.
4. Risk-taking - gambling on the outcome of a business deal, on the basis of factors or evidence beyond your control.
5. Defensiveness - becoming irritable if colleagues point out how much you are drinking.
"Anyone who is self-medicating in these ways should be aware of the warning signs and seek alcohol abuse help before their situation becomes critical," says Allchurch.