Social support has both positive and negative effects on the relationship of work stress and alcohol consumption

Previous studies imply that certain combinations of work stressors, social support (SS), and other conditions could lead to both increased and decreased alcohol consumption. Thus, we evaluated both positive and negative influences of social support on the work stress-alcohol consumption relationship in a general population. The study design was a cross-sectional survey. Of a probability sample of persons 25 years of age or older and living in the United States (n = 3617), subjects who drank and who were without missing values with respect to study variables were analysed (n = 967 or 94). Since previous studies have suggested the necessity of adopting the sensitivity hypothesis (i.e. different stressors require different social supports), hierarchical regression analyses were carried out to test the effects of interactions between two types of social support (e.g. family social support or out-of-family social support) and two types of work stressors (e.g. job psychological demand, job decision latitude) on alcohol consumption. Our analysis verified that (1) social support had both positive and negative effects on the work stress-alcohol relationship. Specifically, (2) interactions between physical activity and decision latitude, and between child support and psychological job demand were related to decreased alcohol consumption. However, (3) interactions between spouse support and decision latitude, and between informal social integration and psychological job demand, were related to increased alcohol consumption. It has been suggested that social support is not of universal benefit in reducing excessive drinking and may sometimes be a reinforcing factor. Since the external validity of these findings might be limited because of the small sample size in some analyses, further study is necessary.

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