Alcohol and Employment Issues
In focus group discussions for the Seeking Solutions Project, seniors talked about alcohol and employment.
Several identified retirement as a factor in alcohol dependence. For some older adults, retirement can mean a major loss of role and can negatively affect the way they view themselves. If some people find retirement is hard, involuntary retirement and job loss as an older worker is even harder.
Seniors in Newfoundland, for example, expressed concern for younger people in their 50s and 60s whose livelihoods disappeared with the cod stocks. They felt that for some people in outports, this meant
having lots of time on their hands as well as
loss of role, (as well as loss of fish culture) as fishermen and fishworkers, without much hope for other forms of employment.
They noted that while the City of St. John's had been undergoing an economic boom, many outports were struggling. At the beginning it was hoped that the fishery changes would only be needed for a couple of years, then 10 years, and now that it may never recover.
In talking about alcohol and employment, seniors sometimes spoke about missed opportunities for employers to recognize and help the person address the problem. For example, men noted when they were younger, the response tended to be "Fire the person" if an alcohol problem existed, "and then they were gone". Or a man might know there was a problem in his life, and he needed help, but would not risk mentioning it to mention to new boss. [See Alcohol as Risky Business in "Seniors Speak Out About Stigma"]
See also Employment and Alcohol in "An Introduction to Seniors and Alcohol Issues"
Research on Job Loss
Surprisingly, there isn't a lot of alcohol research in the area of job loss. However, Gallo, Bradley, Siegel and Kasl of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health in the Yale University School of Medicine published an article in 2001 on the subject. They analyzed data from the 1992 and 1994 "waves" of the Health and Retirement Survey in the U.S. They found a significant relationship between job loss and
subsequent alcohol use among older U.S. workers who have involuntarily lost their jobs and were previously nondrinkers.
The analysis sample included 207 workers who experienced involuntary job loss between survey dates and a comparison group of 2,866 continuously employed workers. The magnitude of the changes in drinking was "quite modest," however. The majority of those who began drinking at follow-up reported drinking less than 1 drink per day.
The year before, the same Yale team found that older workers who lose their jobs suffer more health problems than those who remain employed as "reflected in both poorer physical functioning and mental health for workers who experience involuntary job loss."
A study by San Jose et al (2000) points that people under stressful conditions are not likely to drink moderately. They tend to either abstain or drink heavily.
The seniors' observations and the studies have important implications for labour market work, and employment strategies. In many parts of Canada, there has not been good re-employment training and strategies for older workers.
Gallo, W.T., Bradley, E.H., Siegel, M. et al. (2001). Impact of involuntary job loss on subsequent alcohol consumption by older workers: Findings from the health and retirement survey. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 56B(1), s3-s9, 2001.
San Jose, B., van Oers, H.A.M., van de Mheen, H.D. et al (2000). Stressors and alcohol consumption. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 35(3), 307-312.
Additional Resources and Links
Older Worker Pilot Project : www.nic.bc.ca/olderworker/index.asp for stats on older workers, special employment challenges they face.
Page last updated: Sunday, 31 October 2004, prepared by Charmaine Spencer, (c) 2003, Seeking Solutions
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