Earnings Potential and Alcoholism

Drug & Alcohol Test, Alcohol TestIt seems fairly common sense that those with alcohol problems will experience lower earnings potential due to a variety of factors related to overall work success. One can divide these factors into direct affects and indirect affects but this may be considered an artificial distinction since the two are always related to some degree as we explore below.

Direct Affects of Alcohol Abuse

The physical and emotional correlates of alcohol abuse can be seen in such work-related behaviours as lateness and absenteeism, poor work performance, isolation and insubordination.  Negative behaviors such as these often results in less opportunity for promotion and accompanying salary increases. If they continue over time, job loss is often the result. From this, it is no surprise that alcoholism leads to rising rates of unemployment.

Alcoholism can also affect choice of career and career stability. Many persons with an alcohol problem choose jobs that are less demanding and stressful and often pay a lower wage.  This may be viewed as a self-protective measure as stress is certainly a trigger for relapse. However, long-term recovery (and increased earnings potential) will necessitate the need for the individual to develop effective coping skills when faced with stressful situations, both within and outside the workplace.

Indirect Effects of Alcohol Abuse

A primary way in which alcohol abuse may affect earnings potential is via its effect on both hard and soft skill set development. If the disease is present during the high school and college years, the person may not lack the motivation to complete their schooling. Reduced education limits job choice and usually results in low-wage employment with little or no room for career advancement. A person in recovery may accept such employment because of lower stress levels (a direct effect) or because of their lower education (an indirect effect). However, direct and indirect effects are related in a 360 degree pattern, as shown in the figure below: if the person is an alcoholic with reduced motivation levels then education will not seem a priority; lack of education results in limited career choice and lower earnings. Finally, those with reduced prospects for bettering their situation often lose motivation to engage in career enhancement activities (such as a return to school)

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Poor work performance very often leads to job loss and decreased employability due to “softening” of skill through disuse, along with the creation of employment gaps. As a result, the individual may have to accept a lower-wage job just to have the opportunity to re-enter the working world.

A second major indirect effect stems from the myriad of familial and social relationship issues that arise to due alcohol abuse. Alcoholics tend to have higher rates of divorce and marital strife in the form of both emotional and physical abuse than non-alcoholics. The effects of this type of home life can be expected to negatively impact overall job performance and result in reduced earnings potential. Many alcoholics also have trouble maintaining healthy workplace and social relationships due their lack of consideration with regard to the needs of others and inability to earn trust.

The reduced earnings of alcoholics have a real economic impact on society as a whole.  The alcoholic, along with his or her family suffer the consequences of reduced earnings in the form of instability of the core unit, along with difficulty meeting even basic living expenses. Employers suffer from reduced productivity that results in both real and opportunity costs. These by-products of alcohol abuse are in addition to such alcohol-related incidents as traffic accidents, crime, and illness—all of which have significant societal costs attached.

The combination of reduced earnings with the overall societal costs associated with alcohol and drug use, make testing a priority for both treatment providers and employers in all size companies. CMM technology offers some of the best drug and alcohol testing equipment on the market today such as Lion breathalyser and Oraline drug tests. We have experts available to answer your questions and order testing equipment. We invite you to contact us today to learn more about keeping a drug-free workplace and helping those with an alcohol problem obtain needed assistance.


Hamilton, V., and Hamilton, B. “Alcohol and Earnings: Does Drinking yield a wage premium?” Canadian Journal of Economics, 1997, 30 (1), pp 135-151. N.p.,n.d, Web http://www.jstor.org/pss/136363

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