Monday, August 21, 2017

Stressed Workers

Here, from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, are the key statistics on which workers are the heaviest users of alcohol and drugs. These were published in 2015, so this is the most recent fully analyzed data available:
  • Combined data from 2008 to 2012 indicate that an annual average of 8.7 percent of full-time workers aged 18 to 64 used alcohol heavily in the past month, 8.6 percent used illicit drugs in the past month, and 9.5 percent were dependent on or abused alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year.
  • The highest rates of past month heavy alcohol use among full-time workers aged 18 to 64 were found in the mining (17.5 percent) and construction industries (16.5 percent).
  • The highest rates of past month illicit drug use were found in the accommodations and food services industry (19.1 percent).
  • The workers in the accommodations and food services industry (16.9 percent) had the highest rates of past year substance use disorder.
I don't know any miners, but I can't say I am at all surprised to see construction workers and waiters at the top of the list.

Construction workers show up as having problems in lots of ways, partly because their employment is episodic: even highly skilled workers are regularly laid off for a while between projects, and some kinds of work can be shut down for weeks at a time due to the weather. So while they can earn a lot of money while they are working, they have trouble really moving into the middle class.

I wonder about the issues surrounding waiters, bartenders, and casino workers; is is the work, or is it that the work draws a certain sort of person, one who wants to work late hours around alcohol?

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

Regarding accomodations and food industry services, I believe there are two major factors (among others) that must be considered.

1) Tips

America is essentially the only western country which believes it's okay to not pay full wages to your employees and expect them to make up the difference in tips.

In the rest of the world, a tip is actually a tip - a rare optional gift from an individual customer to show appreciation to an individual employee for exceptional service, on top of their ordinary living wage. But in America, a tip is instead treated as an unspoken mandatory surcharge, and an excuse to systemically not pay employees a fair living wage, or in many cases to even pay them less than minimum wage.

2) Hostile Work Environments

Americans are notoriously rude and even outright abusive to service personnel. Every country has unpleasant customers, but American culture particularly promotes the toxicity and frequency of them.

As a society, we expect our service personnel to bend over backwards to please unreasonable miscreants, and to tolerate all sorts of injustices and transgressions against them. Employers would rather sacrifice the dignity and mental health of their employees than lose the business of their worst customers.

At the same time, most service jobs are completely unaccomadating to the needs of the employees. Hours and days worked are not stable. Sick days and time off are strictly limited. In fact, you're largely treated as being utterly disposeable - if you can't keep up, if the constant abuse and mistreatment starts to eat away at you and slow you down or make you need to take time off to recover, they'll fire you and just hire someone else.

Add in the cuthroat competitive nature of employees vying for tips, the irregular hours with irregular effective hourly wage from variations in tips received, the anxiety of the fact that failing to get enough tips might mean you can afford to make rent that month, and all the other little miserable facts of live working a service job and it does not surprise me one iota that such individuals turn to drugs at an alarming rate to help them cope.