Occupation, job characteristics, and the use of alcohol and other drugs

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Zhiwei Zhang
William E. Snizek
Cite this article:  Zhang, Z., & Snizek, W. (2003). Occupation, job characteristics, and the use of alcohol and other drugs. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 31(4), 395-412.


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This study uses detailed information from the Department of Labor (O'NET 98) concerning the characteristics and content of 1,122 occupations, and combines these data with information on alcohol and drug use collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in their 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA). Using a merged data set, based on 7,477 full-time workers, weighted logistic regression analyses were used to examine the relationships between eight occupational and job dimensions and workers' current and prior use of alcohol and drugs. Results show that steady employment or job security has the most pronounced negative effect on alcohol and drug use, while characteristics such as the pace of activity, job independence, and skills utilization to include feelings of accomplishment have little or no effect on employees' alcohol and drug use. Furthermore, the etiology of cocaine use appears quite different from that of alcohol and other types of drug use: all else being equal, employees' odds of using cocaine, when working in an occupation with greater job variety, decrease by 64 percent. However, employees in occupations with greater job autonomy are about 4 times more likely to use cocaine than are employees in jobs with less autonomy. These findings suggest that occupational conditions have a discernible influence on alcohol and drug use among employees, albeit in more complex ways than those suggested by much of the organizational stress and occupational subcultural literature.

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