Alcohol plays a natural part in most peoples’ lives, and as many as 95% of Norwegian employees drink alcohol. While adolescents and young adults drink less alcohol than before, there has been an increase in adult alcohol consumption. WIRUS is a research project conducted at the university of Stavanger, in collaboration with other research institutions and organizations, including Presenter-Making Sense of Science. On this page we will provide a short description of the project.

Studies have found that between 10 and 35% of Norwegian employees can be characterized as risky drinkers, i.e. that their alcohol consumption can cause damage and/or develop into an addiction if it persists over time. Other studies have found that alcohol consumption is associated with both sickness absence and presenteeism (reduced productivity due to alcohol consumption).

The majority of the adult population is in employment. The workplace can therefore be an appropriate arena for preventing alcohol-related problems. Workplace-based interventions have shown promising results in regard to preventing alcohol-related sickness absence and presenteeism.

You can find an overview of publications in the WIRUS project here.

The purpose of the WIRUS project is to provide to new knowledge about positive and negative aspects of alcohol consumption, compile relevant scientific knowledge in the field, test the effect of workplace-based alcohol interventions, gain more knowledge about the implementation process when new workplace-based interventions are implemented, do cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis of the such interventions, and to contribute to more knowledge about the drinking culture in Norwegian companies.

The focus of the WIRUS project is on employees who are risky drinkers, i.e. employees who drink more than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends, without having developed serious health consequences or alcohol addiction. The project includes five studies that aim at facilitating the national implementation of workplace-based interventions for employees with risky alcohol consumption, which will be organized and provided by the occupational health services:

  • A systematic literature review which compiles national and international research literature on the association between alcohol consumption and sickness absence.
  • A randomized controlled trial (RCT), which tests the effects of to different interventions against a control group. Approx. 10.000 Norwegian employees will complete a screening aimed at identifying risky drinkers. The screening is based on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), which is developed by WHO. Employees who are identified as risky drinkers are randomized into one of three groups: (a) a motivational interview (MI) intervention, (b) a web-based intervention, or (c) a control group, which does not receive an intervention. A follow-up study will be conducted after 6 months. The primary outcomes are alcohol consumption, sickness absence, and presenteeism.
  • A culture study, which examines situations for work-related drinking, how this affects alcohol culture at the group level, and how it affects alcohol expectations and alcohol norms at the individual level. How the implementation of alcohol interventions affects the companies’ alcohol policy and drinking culture will also be examined.
  • A cost-benefits study, which evaluates the cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness of the interventions.
  • An implementation study, which consists of: (a) a process evaluation of the RCT study, (b) a context assessment which evaluates the occupation health services’ current practice and possible barriers to effective implementation, (c) the development of an online qualification programme for occupational health service personnel, and (d) a follow-up study which evaluates the qualification programme.

The WIRUS project is funded by the Norwegian Directorate of Health, and the University of Stavanger is responsible for the scientific content. The collaborating institutions include Presenter-Making Sense of Science, Oslo and Akershus University College, KoRus Vest Stavanger, SERAF, the University of Oslo, KORFOR at Stavanger University Hospital, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Karolinska Institutet in Stocholm, and Veije University Amsterdam.

The project team consists of Randi Wågø Aas (project manager, the research project) and Åsa Sjøgren (project manager, recruitment and training of the occupational health services), Hildegunn Sagvaag, DrPH, Lise Haveraaen, MSc, Lisebet Skeie Skarpaas, MSc, Mikkel Thørrisen, Mphil, Håvar Brendryen, PhD, Jens C. Skogen, PhD, Willy Pedersen, Prof./PhD, Silje Lill Rimstad, MSc, and Unnur Osk Sigurdadottir, Kristin Nordaune og Ditte Staldgaard (masterstudenter).