Non-drinkers more likely to miss work than moderate drinkers, study says

If you think heavy drinkers are more likely to miss days of work, you’re wrong. Teetotalers are just as likely to call in sick as those who consume heavy amounts of alcohol, according to a new report.

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Researchers from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health recently conducted a study to determine which groups miss work the most.

To do so, they surveyed more than 47,000 people in Europe. The questionnaire asked the participants about their alcohol use and the number of sick days they reported over the course of four to seven years.

After analyzing the results, they were able to identify five categories of drinkers ranging from people who didn’t drink to those who did moderately to those who did heavily.

Moderate drinkers who were women had one to 11 units of alcohol a week, while moderate drinkers who were men had one to 34 units weekly. Heavy drinkers had more than 11 for women and more than 34 for men.

In the United Kingdom, a unit is approximately 8 grams of alcohol. A standard glass of wine is about 2 units of alcohol and a beer is about 1.75 units.

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Furthermore, they found that both abstainers and heavy drinkers had a high risk of “sickness absence.” In fact, both groups were more likely to be absent from work than moderate drinkers.

They revealed that teetotalers had a high risk of work absence due to mental and musculoskeletal disorders and diseases of the digestive and respiratory system. And high-volume drinkers were called out due to injury or poisoning.

"Some diseases, or their treatment, prevent alcohol use, which may explain the excess risks among abstainers," lead author Jenni Ervasti said in a statement. "Moreover, participants to whom at-risk drinking causes health problems may be selected out from the labor market, that is, if they retire early or become unemployed. Then, the adverse effects are not seen in absence from work due to illness."

The scientists noted a few limitations. The trial took place in Europe, where lifestyle and drinking habits may differ from other locations. Plus, the data they received was self-reported.

The findings were published in the Addiction journal. Learn more here

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