Downsizing and Alcohol Use: A Cross-Logged Longitudinal Examination of the Spillover Hypothesis

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Work & Stress: An International Journal of Work, Health & Organisations


Sociology & Anthropology


An area of concern for investigators and practitioners is the possible linkage between stressful workplace events and alcohol use and abuse; however, work in this area, specifically testing a “spillover hypothesis,” offers inconclusive evidence of a relationship between many work-based stressors and alcohol use. Using a three-wave panel sample (N=455) from a large US industrial firm that has undergone numerous downsizing events in the last decade, four alternative causal hypotheses using fully cross-lagged three-wave mediational latent factor models were compared via structural equation modelling. Separate models were analysed for layoff experience and job security perceptions; a motivational factor, escape reasons for drinking, was included in each model. We found large autoregressive effects for problem alcohol use in the stability models. One reason for weak support for spillover models may be that problem alcohol use is more stable over time than previously theorized. All alternative causal models fit the data well; however, the only model comparisons showing significant improvement over the stability models were those including reverse paths. Reverse causal models should be explicitly considered when examining the link between alcohol problems and the workplace. We suggest that, for some workers, problematic alcohol use may be antecedent to, rather than a consequence of, stressful workplace experiences.