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Study finds teetotallers miss more work than their thirstier colleagues

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PEOPLE who don’t drink have more sickies than their thirstier colleagues, an international study has found.

Researchers from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health compared workers who avoided alcohol with those who drank a little (up to 11 units per week for women and up to 34 units for men) and heavy drinkers.

They found those who chose not to drink had more sick days off work because of illness than those who enjoyed a tipple or three.

But a Curtin University professor with close to 40 years of experience in alcohol research says care must be taken when interpreting the findings.

Professor Steve Allsop said one drink or single “unit” equated to 12 grams of alcohol, which was “quite high by Australian standards”.

The average drink in Australia contains 10 grams of alcohol.

He also said it did not mean you should target the closest bottle of wine.

“It’s not necessarily that alcohol is good for your health,” he said. “You might enjoy a drink but don’t pretend it’s medicine.

“International health bodies caution that you shouldn’t use alcohol for its alleged health benefits.

“Some people who are abstaining from alcohol do so because they are ill and can’t drink.

“If you take sick abstainers from many of these studies, the alleged benefits are reduced or all but eliminated.”

It was a point even the researchers acknowledged, with their study finding heavy drinkers missed plenty of days because of injury or hangovers.

Among the study group, which was made up of men and women from the UK, France and Finland, those that skipped alcohol had a higher risk of mental and musculoskeletal disorders or disease of the digestive or respiratory systems.

Lead author Jenni Ervasti said the findings demonstrate some diseases, or their treatment, prevent alcohol use, which could explain the excess risks among abstainers.

“Moreover, participants to whom at-risk drinking causes health problems may be selected out from the labour market... if they retire early or become unemployed,” she said.

In those cases Dr Ervasti said “the adverse effects are not seen in absence from work due to illness” because they are not employed.

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