Workplace substance use incurs substantial costs to society and employers through decreased workplace productivity as well as increased employee turnover, absenteeism and worker stress. This study examined workplace substance use and substance-related problems in Australia using two waves of National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) data.
To detail workplace substance use and workplace problems (including absenteeism, going to work under the influence of a substance and workplace abuse) by industry and occupation using two waves of the NDSHS, and to identify any statistically significant changes in the prevalence of workplace problems over time.
Data from the 2007 and 2010 NDSHS was merged and analysed with descriptives and simple chi-square analyses conducted.
Among the total workforce, work problems relating to substance use either remained stable (drug-related absence, going to work under the influence of an illicit drug) or reduced significantly (reports of workplace abuse). Importantly, the prevalence of substance related workplace problems was not seen to increase despite increases in substance use at a population level. However, this finding needs to be considered in the context of the worker’s age, gender, industry and occupation. For example, substance use is known to be elevated among young males while older females report much lower use. Similarly, those in the hospitality and construction industries reported an increased pattern of workplace problems. In contrast, those in education and training and agriculture industries were at less risk of workplace problems. In addition, with the exception of workplace abuse, those in the healthcare industry and in professional occupations were at less risk of workplace problems.
In regards to substance use, in 2007 and 2010, a lower proportion of those employed in healthcare and education and training industries reported recent cannabis and other illicit substance use compared to those who are not in the workforce. Further analysis of the 2007 and 2010 NDSHS data also suggests that the substance use gap between the workforce and those not in the workforce is decreasing for illicit substance use and increasing for alcohol use. That is, between 2007 and 2010, cannabis and other illicit substance use increased significantly and alcohol use decreased significantly but only among those not in the workforce.
Gates P, Grove R, Copeland J. Impact of substance use on the Australian workforce. Journal of Addiction Prevention. 2013;1(2): 6. DOI: 10.13188/2330-2178.1000006
A second paper has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Occupational Health and Safety.
The ability of Australian workplaces to make an informed response to workplace drug use is impeded by a lack of information on workplace substance use which itself is unevenly delineated across different industries and social and demographic factors. This project attempts to provide detail on an update on workplace problems (including absenteeism, going to work under the influence of a substance and workplace abuse) by industry and occupation and to identify any statistically significant changes in the prevalence of workplace problems current to the most recent NDSHS data.