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Study: Binge drinking cuts chance of landing a job by 10 percent

By Mary Catt


September 15, 2017  

Heavy drinking six times a month reduces by 10 percent the probability a new college graduate will land a job, according to research led by the Smithers Institute, in the ILR School.

“Does College Alcohol Consumption Impact Employment Upon Graduation? Findings From a Prospective Study,” published online Sept. 14 by the Journal of Applied Psychology, provides the first evidence that unhealthy behavior has a robust effect on young adult employment following college graduation.

Researchers found that drinking does not have employment implications for graduates seeking full-time employment for the first time unless it escalates to binge levels.

Data was provided by 827 students who graduated in 2014, 2015 or 2016 from Cornell, the University of Washington, the University of Florida or the University of Michigan.

Binge drinking is typically defined as four or more drinks within two hours for a woman and five or more drinks within two hours for a man, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Funded by a $2.2 million grant from the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, the Smithers Institute-led research is part of the first longitudinal study on the link between college-to-work transition and alcohol misuse. More than 2,000 individuals have been contacted as part of the five-year study.

The researchers are ILR Professor Samuel Bacharach, director of the R. Brinkley Smithers Institute for Alcohol-Related Workplace Studies in Manhattan; Peter Bamberger ’82, M.S. ’84, Ph.D. ’90, Smithers research director and associate dean of Tel Aviv University’s Coller School of Management; Irene Geisner, University of Washington; Jaclyn Koopmann, Auburn University; Mary Larimer, University of Washington; Inbal Nahum-Shani, University of Michigan; and Mo Wang, University of Florida.

Each episode of binge drinking during a month-long period lowers by 1.4 percent the odds of attaining full-time employment upon graduation, researchers found, pinpointing for the first time exactly what it is about drinking that might impact employment status.

Previous studies have been unable to determine whether alcohol’s effect on employment stems from a heightened risk of job loss or from a delayed return to work because of alcohol impairing the job search.

A student who binge drinks four times a month has a six percent lower probability of finding a job than one who does not binge drink, according to the research. Those who drink heavily six times a month increase their unemployment probability to 10 percent.

How students drink versus how much they consume appears to be influential in predicting lower employment rates, the study says. The researchers found that a nonbinge pattern of drinking does not adversely impact job-search abilities. Any adverse effect of nonbinge consumption might be counterbalanced by potential benefits of moderate consumption on networking and job-search intensity.

That’s because there might be better opportunities to connect with others on valuable job-opening information, the researchers said, drawing on research by William Sonnenstuhl, associate professor of organizational behavior.

“This paper is consistent with the Smithers Institute’s recent emphasis on the impact of career transition on drinking behavior,” said Bacharach, ILR’s McKelvey-Grant Professor and the project’s principal investigator. “It is in concert with the previous work we’ve done on retirement and on-boarding. Most importantly, it is also consistent with Smithers’ continued programmatic interest in substance abuse not only in the workplace, but in the college community, as well.”

Mary Catt is assistant director of communications for the ILR School.

George Lowery


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