Project information:
Period: 2013-2020
Type of project:

Literature review. Knowledge sharing.


The Norwegian Directorate of Health, University of Stavanger, KoRus Vest Stavanger, Oslo and Akershus University College, University of Oslo, KORFOR at Stavanger University Hospital, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Veije University Amsterdam, Karolinska Institutet.


Mikkel Magnus Thørrisen, Randi Wågø Aas, Lise Haveraaen, Lisebet Skeie Skarpaas, Hildegunn Sagvaag, Ingvild Kjeken, Åsa Sjøgren, Silje Lill Rimstad, Willy Pedersen, Håvar Brendryen, Jens Christopher Skogen, Maurits van Tulder, Willem van Mechelen, Irene Jensen, Helen Ripper, Allard van der Beek, Kristin Nordaune, Unnur Sigurdardottir, Ditte Staldgaard, Malin Tangen, Sunniva Nordskog

Products and services: Free course (2017). Qualification program (2017-2018). Knowledge portal (2018)..

In this competency project, which is connected to the WIRUS research project at the University of Stavanger, we will review what previous research has found on the relationship between alcohol consumption, sickness absence and presenteeism. Furthermore, we will look at existing interventions and evaluate the effect of these in regard to reducing alcohol consumption. In order to make this knowledge known to a larger number of people, we will develop a short free online course based on the results from the reviews. In addition, we will develop and test a qualification program for occupational health service personnel and anyone else who needs access to evidence-based knowledge on alcohol, sickness absence and presenteeism.

While adolescents and young adults drink less alcohol than before, there has been an increase in adult alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that 95% of Norwegian employees drink alcohol, and that half of the consumption is connected to job-related situations. However, these studies are relatively old, and the Norwegian working-life and culture has developed considerable since these studies were conducted. There is therefore a need for new research on the topic.

Previous research has found an association between employees’ alcohol consumption and their sickness absence rates. Higher levels of alcohol consumption has, for example, been linked to increased short-term absence, and more than half of the one-day absence is caused by alcohol use. Some studies also indicate that there is an association between alcohol consumption and presenteeism. Presenteeism occurs when employees are physically present at work, but function at less than full productivity.

The company’s expenditure for one employee’s sickness absence is approximately NOK 13.000 (approx. € 1.400) per week. The annual costs associated with work-related alcohol use are estimated to NOK 18 billion (approx. € 1.9 billion). New research also indicates that expenditures caused by presenteeism are equivalently high.

Several interventions aimed at reducing alcohol consumptions have been developed in recent years. These are to some extent offered as workplace interventions, and are directed at at-risk drinkers, i.e. employees who drink more than WHO’s recommendations. However, there are different opinions about which interventions should be provided, and whether the employee’s GP, the occupational health services or the specialist health care services should be responsible for identifying the group of at-risk drinkers and providing the relevant interventions. It is therefore important to gain more knowledge about what research has found to be effective interventions in regard to reducing alcohol consumption and increasing work participation and productivity. We also need to get an overview of the knowledge we are lacking.

You can read more about the WIRUS project here.