Mental Stress and Alcohol Consumption. Resources that may prevent alcohol consumption

Bachelor Thesis, 2019

34 Pages, Grade: 1,0



1. Introduction
1.1. Inauguration
1.2. Mental Stress at Workplace and Alcohol Consumption
1.3. Social Support at Work
1.4. Organizational Identification
1.5. Internal Locus of Control
1.6. Research Issues and Hypotheses

2. Method
2.1. Sample
2.2. Material
2.3. Procedure
2.4. Statistical Analysis

3. Results
3.1. Descriptive Statistics
3.2. Regression Analysis
3.3. Moderation Analyses

4. Discussion
4.1. Main Findings
4.2. Additional Findings
4.3. Limitations and Perspective
4.4. Conclusion

5. Literature

6. List of Abbreviations

7. List of Figures

8. List of Tables


Based on the recent changes in the working world and the associated increase in psychological stress at work, it was examined whether high mental stress at workplace leads to an elevated alcohol consumption. Furthermore, it was investigated whether job and personal resources like social support at work, organizational identification as well as an internal locus of control can buffer this relationship. This was addressed by examining all variables with corresponding questionnaires in an online-survey (N = 290). The results indicated that there was no relationship between mental stress at workplace and alcohol consumption and thus no predictive power. Moreover, the moderation hypotheses could not be confirmed. Neither social support, nor organizational identification, nor an internal locus of control had a significant impact on the relationship between mental stress at workplace and alcohol consumption. Due to the poor reliability value of the AUDIT-C test for alcohol consumption, no statement can be made about the actual relationships examined. In sum, the study should be repeated with a different measuring instrument for alcohol consumption.

Keywords: mental stress, alcohol, social support, organizational identification, locus of control

Aufgrund des Wandels der Arbeitswelt und dem damit verbundenen Anstieg von Belastungen am Arbeitsplatz wurde untersucht, ob eine hohe psychische Belastung am Arbeitsplatz mit einem erhöhten Alkoholkonsum verbunden ist und ob die soziale Unterstützung am Arbeitsplatz, die Identifikation mit dem Unternehmen sowie eine internale Kontrollüberzeugung diesen Zusammenhang abpuffern können. Alle Variablen wurden mit Fragebögen in einer Online-Umfrage erhoben (N = 290). Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass es keinen Zusammenhang zwischen psychischer Belastung am Arbeitsplatz und Alkoholkonsum und damit keine Vorhersagekraft gab. Weder soziale Unterstützung noch die Identifikation mit dem Unternehmen oder eine internale Kontrollüberzeugung hatten einen signifikanten Einfluss auf die Beziehung zwischen psychischer Belastung am Arbeitsplatz und Alkoholkonsum. Aufgrund der schlechten Reliabilität des AUDIT-C-Tests kann jedoch keine Aussage über die tatsächlichen Zusammenhänge getroffen werden. Zusammenfassend lässt sich sagen, dass die Studie mit einem anderen Messinstrument für Alkoholkonsum wiederholt werden sollte.

Schlüsselbegriffe: Psychische Belastung, Alkohol, Soziale Unterstützung, Organisationale Identifikation, Kontrollüberzeugung

Is it really the bottle that makes the stress throttle? – Resources that may prevent the bottle from being grasped

1. Introduction

1.1. Inauguration

Nowadays, especially in western nations it can be observed that the term "stress" became an increasingly frequent topic that seems to be almost inevitable for everyone. In a survey conducted by the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) in 2016, around 63% of women and 58% of men surveyed stated that they felt stressed in everyday life (TK, 2016). Often this increasing stress is tried to be reduced by consuming alcohol, above all beer and wine (Statista, 2017). Thus, for understanding this trend, it is important to first define the construct stress and give an explanation of how it arises. Furthermore, it will be focused on mental stress especially at work and its assumed effect of increased alcohol consumption. Finally, three possible buffer resources are described that may influence the relationship between mental stress at work and alcohol consumption.

Generally, there are many different definitions of stress. What almost all definitions have in common is that it can be seen as a dynamic process that reflects both internal and external factors. It is about traits of a person and their circumstances as well as interactions between them (Butler, 1993). Lazarus and Folkman (1984) for instance, defined stress as a special relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being. Another definition of Greif and Cox (1997) refers to stress as a subjectively unpleasant state of tension, that arises from the fear that a situation, which has already occurred or is imminent, cannot be completely controlled, although its avoidance or control is substantial for the individual. The physiological stress model according to Selye (2013), that is based on a reaction-oriented approach, provides an explanation of how stress may develop. He describes stress as an indeterminate reaction of an individual to all forms of demands and thus as a general adaptation reaction. Various elements can be transformed into stressors and lead to the triggering of the general adaptation system. This system is divided into the phases "alarm reaction", where the person reacts to the identified stressor with tension, which leads to an increased release of hormones and an increase in alertness, the "resistance phase", where the individual resists the actions of the stressor and allows the released stress hormones to be broken down again and the body can recover and at last the "exhaustion phase". This last phase, commonly known as burnout, only occurs when the organism can no longer defend itself against the effects of the stressors over a longer period of time (Litzcke, Pletke, & Schuh, 2013).

For most people in industrialized countries, the main trigger for stress seems to lie primarily in the work context. For instance, in 2016, 46% of all respondents to a further survey by the TK stated that they felt stressed by their work, with work being the largest stress factor of all (TK, 2016). In an additional study by the American Psychological Association (APA), where US-citizens were surveyed, 77% of all respondents said they were also stressed by work (APA, 2018). The number of cases of incapacity for work due to stress-related illnesses, such as burnout, also appears to be increasing among the population (BKK Dachverband, 2018).

On the basis of these statistics, and in order to avoid far-reaching consequences, such as absence from work or incapacity to work, as well as to identify possible resources that may prevent these effects, it is the aim of this present study, to elaborate where mental stress at workplace may come from, what possible effects these particular stress factors could have on people, and what resources may buffer these effects.

1.2. Mental Stress at Workplace and Alcohol Consumption

According to DIN/ÖNORM EN ISO 10075-1 (Joiko, Schmauder, & Wolff, 2002), mental stress is defined as the sum of all external influences that affect a person psychologically. The term psychologically refers to cognitive, information-processing and emotional processes in humans. Based on the data that the work context is one of the largest mental stress factors, it is important to consider what has led to this clear tendency and what exactly are the stress factors that are increasingly encountered in today's work context.

Since the last decades, the world of work seems to be changing fundamentally. Increasing globalisation, technical progress, new communication media and information technologies seem to increase the demands placed on the work environment. In his book, Treier (2019) divides psychological stress factors into the categories "work environment", "social relations", "work activity" and "work organisation". Treier (2019) sees many new challenges and stress factors, especially in terms of work activity and work organisation. On one hand, more and more tasks have to be completed in the same or shorter time, often in parallel, whereas breaks and vacant time are reduced and working hours are generally extended. For example, the need to work towards tight deadlines at high speed has grown significantly and in addition, more and more employees find a high level of work intensity burdensome (Bundesanstalt für Arbeisschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, 2019). A Pronova BKK study also shows that constant deadline pressure and the emotional stress associated with it, as well as overtime hours, are among the most frequent stress factors at work in Germany (Pronova BKK, 2018). The requirements of information and communication technology also seem to represent a considerable burden factor in work (Stich, Gudergan, & Senderek, 2015). The constant expectation of responsiveness and accessibility leads to recurring interruptions, resulting in a loss of work quality and, in the long term, a reduction in recovery time and thus stress-related consequences (Barber & Santuzzi, 2015). According to Russ and Crews (2014), not only work interruptions, but also the performance of several activities at the same time or alternately in short periods of time, also known as multitasking, leads to considerable production losses. A positive connection to perceived stress and an indirect effect on burnout were also found (Reinecke, et al., 2016). Furthermore, a general trend, which represents a significant stress factor, is the elevating job insecurity. More and more employees are only given temporary contracts, which reduces predictability, planning stability and reliability of expectations. This means that organizations lose their stabilizing effect and the overall career stability decreases. Vander Elst, Näswall, Bernhard-Oettel, De Witte, and Sverke (2016) show in their study that the risk of losing one's job has increased, as has the difficulty of planning one's own professional career, which can lead to physical health complaints. These new demands on the world of work mentioned above, are just some of the various possible reasons why work is one of the greatest stress factors in everyday life. Taken together, all these stress factors can ultimately have far-reaching consequences regarding physiological and mental health and impact work quality. Consequently, in this study the question arises whether higher mental stress at workplace leads to an increased alcohol consumption.

Kaufmann, Pornschlegel, and Udris (1982), for example, indicated increased consumption of alcohol as a possible medium- to long-term reaction to stress. Moreover, Head, Standsfeld, and Siegrist (2004) identify mental stress at workplace as a risk factor for alcohol dependence. One reason for this could be the so-called "drinking-to-cope-hypothesis”. People under great emotional stress and pressure tend to reduce their problems with alcohol (Holahan, Moos, Holahan, Cronkite, & Randall, 2001). In this context, the "stress-reaction-damping-hypothesis" also could be contributing (Puls, 2003). According to the author, the pharmacological effects of alcohol are used to relieve the perceived stress, to lighten the mood or to return to a state of relaxation. In addition, Virtanen et al. (2015) assume that alcohol alleviates stress caused by mental stress. In the end, risky alcohol consumption can finally cause possible negative and serious effects on employees as well as on the company in which they work. It can lead to absenteeism, inefficiency, poor performance, impaired decision-making and possibly damaged customer relationships (Virtanen, et al., 2015). Therefore, it is necessary to find out what can generally reduce mental stress at workplace and to examine the influence of it on alcohol consumption.

The Job-Demands-Resources-Model by Bakker and Demerouti (2007), offers a possible explanation of how stress arises and emphasizes the aspect of job resources, which has an influence on the job demands as well as the mental stress. The authors cite physical, psychological, social or organisational aspects of the job as possible job resources that can buffer the stress and thus maintain and improve work motivation. Following Semmer and Udris (2007), there are also so-called personal resources that can alleviate stress factors. On the basis of these models and assumptions, the moderating and buffering effects of social support at work, organizational identification and internal locus of control are examined in this paper.

1.3. Social Support at Work

Social support is generally understood as an individual's ability to receive support and help from the personal social network. It includes the aspect of subjective perception and evaluation, the aspect of existing network resources and social integration and as a third aspect the concrete supporting intervention. Social support typically refers to emotional support, practical-instrumental help, problem-solving support including informational help as well as subjectively experienced social integration and trust in reliable relationships (Hermann, 2019). This present study specially refers to the social network at work as a possible buffering resource.

Basically, there are many studies that deal with the impact of social support on stress. The effect of social support is conveyed on the one hand behaviourally, but on the other hand also through cognitive-psychological mechanisms. For example, Semmer and Udris (2007) describe social support as a social resource aspect that can buffer psychological stress. According to Bakker and Demerouti (2007), social support can also be seen as an essential job resource within the framework of the above-mentioned Job-Demands-Resources-Model. In a meta-analysis from Viswesvaran, Sanchez, and Fisher (1999), it came out that social support at work not only reduced the experienced stress but could also alleviate the perception of stressors. In this investigations, social support acted as a moderator on the effects of mental stress at workplace. Furthermore, social support can directly and favourably influence the state of health by satisfying basic needs for belonging, appreciation and emotional security. Both mechanisms in turn influence neuroendocrine, autonomic and immunological functions positively (Hermann, 2019). Consequently, another question that arises in this study is whether a high perceived social support may influence the relationship between mental stress at workplace and alcohol consumption.

Another social job resource according to the Job-Demands-Resources-Model (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007) that satisfies basic needs for belonging, appreciation and emotional security and therefore may buffer the effects of mental stress, is the construct of organizational identification.

1.4. Organizational Identification

The concept of organizational identification (OID) is strongly related to social identity theory and refers to the degree to which employees or supervisors define themselves as members of the organization and the extent to which they experience a sense of unity with it, its values, its brand or its methods. People tend to divide themselves and others into different social groups, such as organizational affiliation, gender or age group. A kind of classification allows the person to organize the social environment and localize themselves and others within it. Organizational identification is a specific form of this social identification and means a perceptual or cognitive construct that improves self-esteem, which alleviates perceived mental stress and therefore promotes well-being (Mael & Ashforth, 1992).

The moderating role of OID in the effects of mental stress has hardly been investigated so far. However, it has been proven that it plays an important role in terms of work motivation and job satisfaction, to the extent that both increase through higher organizational identification (Mozes, Josman, & Yanic, 2011). Therefore, it is assumed for this present study that the construct of organizational identification is also a social resource aspect according to Semmer and Udris (2007) and the Job-Demands-Resources-Model (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007) and acts as a buffer against mental stress at workplace. Therefore, and additional question in this study arises whether a high organizational identification may influence the relationship between mental stress at workplace and alcohol consumption.

A further contributing aspect for improving self-esteem and therefore well-being is the feeling of having one’s own life under control as well as the feeling that oneself can change aspects of their life, therefore the notion of internal locus of control (Pruessner, et al., 2005).

1.5. Internal Locus of Control

Locus of control is a term developed in connection with behaviourist reinforcement plans that was introduced by Rotter in 1966 on the basis of his social learning theory. The construct refers to the extent to which humans believe that the occurrence of an event depends on their own behaviour, for instance whether the place of control is within or outside the individual. A distinction is therefore made between internal and external locus of control (Stangl, 2019). Locus of control is thus defined as the subjective believe of whether one can control one’s own behaviour in certain situations, what is called internal locus of control, or whether it is determined by external influences (Tewes & Wildgrube, 1992).

Fundamentally, there is not much literature as to whether internal locus of control is particularly suitable as a moderator for the relationship between mental stress at workplace and alcohol consumption. However, there are some studies that show that perceived internal control can generally reduce stress and can help reducing alcohol consumption as well. A study by Sandler and Lakey (1982), for example, showed the positive buffer effect of internal locus of control on stress in college students. Another study by Gray-Stanley, Muramatsu, Heller, Hughes, and Ramirez-Valles (2010) found that people with a high internal locus of control drink less alcohol than people with a low perceived internal control or with a high external locus of control. In view of these studies and following Semmer and Udris (2007), who consider locus of control as a personal resource, it is assumed in this present study that the perceived internal control is to be seen as a resource within the Job-Demands-Resources-Model. So the last question that arises in this study is whether a high internal locus of control may influence the relationship between mental stress at workplace and alcohol consumption.

1.6. Research Issues and Hypotheses

The aim of this thesis is to clarify to what extent mental stress at workplace has a predictive power on alcohol consumption and whether possible social and personal resources can buffer this relationship in order to prevent far-reaching consequences for the person as well as the company in which they work. In particular, the focus of this study lies in the moderating effects of social support at work, organizational identification and internal locus of control on the relationship between mental stress at workplace and alcohol consumption. The research questions and the following hypotheses examined in this thesis result from the theoretical considerations and the definitions of the constructs:

Hypothesis 1: With increasing mental stress at workplace, alcohol consumption increases.

Hypothesis 2: People who experience high mental stress at workplace tend to consume less alcohol if the social support they experience at work is high.

Hypothesis 3: People who experience high mental stress at workplace tend to consume less alcohol if their perceived organizational identification is high.

Hypothesis 4: People who experience high mental stress at workplace tend to consume less alcohol if the internal locus of control is high.

2. Method

2.1. Sample

A total of 642 people took part in the study, of which 290 completed the survey. The participants were recruited in advance, for example via Facebook-Groups as well as in circles of acquaintances for the survey “Study on everyday working life”. In order to participate in the online-survey, the test persons had the opportunity to win one of two 50, - € Amazon gift vouchers. All 290 participants who finished the study (71% female), with a mean age of M = 36.26 years (SD = 13.19), could be included in the calculations. Each test person indicated that they were working either full-time (66.6 %) or part-time. Both employees (84.5 %) as well as self-employed persons were included in the sample, whereas 54.5 % of them were engaged in office work, 45.5 % had management responsibilities and 81 % had customer contact in their work.

Table 1 provides an overview of the number of participants, assigned to different occupational groups, and contains additional information on age and gender. It can be seen, that there was a wide range of different professions, with most of the test persons working in the health sector, followed by other professions, that have not been listed explicitly, and jobs in commerce as well as consulting, planning and research.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1 Characteristics of the Sample.

2.2. Material

Social Support at Work: In order to measure social support at work, the subscale "Social Support" of the German translation by Stegmann et al. (2010) of the Work Design Questionnaire from Morgeson & Humphrey was used. The WDQ was generally designed to test work characteristics and includes 77 items that can be assigned to four scales: Task Characteristics, Knowledge Characteristics, Social Characteristics and Work Context (Morgeson & Humphrey, 2006). The “Social Support” subscale which was used for this study can be allocated to the dimension “Social Characteristics” and consists of five items. The participants had the opportunity to answer the items on a five-step Likert scale, ranging from "I don't agree at all" to "I completely agree”, whereas all questions had to be completed obligatorily to proceed the survey. An example item was “I have the opportunity to develop close friendships in my job.". The internal consistency for the present sample of the scale can be seen in Table 2.

Organizational Identification: The Organizational Identification Scale (OID-s), which was used to test Organizational Identification in this study, is based on the subscale “Organizational Identification” of a test that Mael & Ashforth (1992) designed to capture identification with an organization. The original questionnaire consists of a total of 36 items, which can be assigned to five scales: Organizational identification, Perceived organizational prestige, Perceived interorganizational competition, Perceived intraorganizational competition and Sentimentality. The scale "Organizational Identification" comprises six questions. Since the original items were formulated in English and for educational organizations, the items for this study were translated into German and applied to organizations in general. In this case, the test subjects again should answer the compulsory questions on a five-stage Likert scale, ranging from "I don't agree at all" to "I completely agree”. The adjusted items were as follows: “When someone criticizes the company I work for, it feels like a personal insult.”, “I am very interested in what others think about the company I work for.”, “When I talk about the company I work for, I usually say ‘we’ rather than ‘they’.”, “Successes of the company I work for are my successes.”, “When someone praises the company I work for, it feels like a personal compliment.”, “If a story in the media criticized the company I work for, I would feel embarrassed.”. The internal consistency for the present sample of the scale can be seen in Table 2.

Internal Locus of Control: To measure the internal locus of control, the scale “Internality” (FKK-I) of the Questionnaire on Competence and Control Convictions (FKK) of G. Krampen (1991) was used. The FKK was designed to record competence and contingency expectations and consists of 32 items in total that can be assigned to four scales: Self-concept of own abilities (FKK-SK), Internality (FKK-I), Social externality (FKK-P) and Fatalistic externality (FKK-C). The scale “Internality” contains eight mandatory items, which were all included in this present survey. The response alternatives consisted of six-step bipolar anchored response scales, ranging from “not applicable at all” to “absolutely applicable”. Example item were “It mainly depends on me whether people follow my wishes or not” or “Whether I have an accident or not depends solely on me and my behaviour”. The internal consistency for the present sample of the scale can be seen in Table 2.

Mental Stress at Workplace: Within the framework of mental stress at workplace, the project team of the Department of Psychology of the University of Salzburg designed a new, language-free, computer-based test that presents aspects of mental stress at the workplace in the form of comics. This Work Design Comic (WDC) is based on the Work Design Questionnaire (Morgeson & Humphrey, 2006) and consists of a total of 41 comic-items that can be assigned to nine main dimensions: Contextual Characteristics (e.g. “At my workplace the type of seat design is appropriate.”), Knowledge Characteristics (e.g. “My job requires a lot of mental work”), Task Characteristics (e.g. “I can decide for myself in which order I do my work.”), Social Characteristics (e.g. “My work requires that I complete my tasks before others can do their work.”), Interruptions (e.g. “My work is interrupted by phone calls.”), Time Pressure (e.g. “Is your work unevenly distributed so that it piles up?”), Willingness to help (e.g. “I help others when they are overloaded with work.”), Leadership (e.g. “My supervisor shows satisfaction when others meet expectations.”) and Customer Contact (e.g. “I am dealing with customers yelling at me.”). For each item two comics were designed by a professional graphic designer in black and white, representing a negative as well as a positive extreme. The answer format of all items consists of a seven-step number-scale ranging from +3 for the positive extreme comic to -3 for the negative extreme comic. Thus, the higher the value, the less the mental stress at workplace. The items on customer contact only appeared for the test participants who stated in the demographic questionnaire that they had customer contact. All other items were mandatory. The internal consistencies for the present sample of the scales can be seen in Table 2.

Alcohol Consumption: For measuring participants’ alcohol consumption, Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption (AUDIT-C), a short version of the AUDIT (WHO, 2001) was used. The original AUDIT, which consists of 10 items, was developed within the framework of the “World Health Organization Collaborative Project on the Detection and Management of Alcohol-related Problems in Primary Health Care” and was intended to identify hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption. The first three questions of the AUDIT were well received by patients, whereas the rest often met with resistance. Therefore, these first three questions were chosen for the AUDIT-C, which is no longer only used in a clinical context, but is a general tool for measuring alcohol consumption. There are five possible answers per question, whereby in the later evaluation the first answer alternative always scores 0 points while the fifth answer alternative scores 4 points. The three items are as follows: “How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?”, “How many standard drinks containing alcohol do you have on a typical day?”, “How often do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?”. The five answer choices vary depending on the question. All three questions were mandatory. The internal consistency for the present sample of the scale can be seen in Table 2.


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Mental Stress and Alcohol Consumption. Resources that may prevent alcohol consumption
University of Salzburg  (Department of Psychology)
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mental stress, alcohol, organizational identification, social support, locus of control, psychology, organizational psychology, AUDIT-C
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Isabella Lenz (Author), 2019, Mental Stress and Alcohol Consumption. Resources that may prevent alcohol consumption, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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