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Employees Drank Less on the Job (But Lots More After Work) During the Recession

January 6, 2016, 3:18 PM UTC
Burgeoning Craft Beer Industry Creates Niche Market For Limited Release Beers
SANTA ROSA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: Russian River Brewing Company customers clink their glasses while drinking the newly released Pliny the Younger triple IPA beer on February 7, 2014 in Santa Rosa, California. Hundreds of people lined up hours before the opening of Russian River Brewing Co. to taste the 10th annual release of the wildly popular Pliny the Younger triple IPA beer that will only be available on tap from February 7th through February 20th. Craft beer aficionados rank Pliny the Younger as one of the top beers in the world. The craft beer sector of the beverage industry has grown from being a niche market into a fast growing 12 billion dollar business, as global breweries continue to purchase smaller regional craft breweries such this week's purchase of New York's Blue Point Brewing by AB Inbev. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Photograph by Justin Sullivan — Getty Images

Economic recessions, and the layoffs they trigger, are stressful even for the people who manage to keep their jobs. As it turns out, being one of the “survivors” in a pink-slip blitz has some interesting effects on our drinking behavior.

A new study from the University of Buffalo found that, on one hand, the threat of imminent job loss made American workers sober up — literally. Drinking on the job dried up during the recession, as remaining members of the workforce curbed any behavior that could give their employers an excuse to show them the door.

Researchers wrote:

To the extent that work demands increased among those who retained employment and the available labor force increased with downsizing, employers may have been more likely to monitor employee work behavior and employees may have been more sensitive to this possibility leading to elevated levels of job insecurity.

The flip side of these findings is that we didn’t curtail our boozing so much as postpone it, because the study also found that we hit the sauce harder at happy hour.

Employees who already drank were more likely to drink heavily and get drunk in the first two hours after they left work during the recession. The study did note that middle-age workers were more likely than younger workers to be driven to drink after work, presumably because they had more financial responsibilities and stressors. But young people stepped up their post-work drinking as well: The study showed that workers of all ages who already drank were more likely to drown their sorrows with an after-work cocktail (or several) during the recession.

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