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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Bottoms Up: Studies Show Successful People Drink More

Movies like to portray those down on their luck as turning to drink.

They sit at bars, or even on streets, bemoaning their fate, supposedly finding solace in a bottle or a glass.

We’re supposed to believe that the wealthier and the more educated drink for controlled recreation.

Look at the Most Interesting Man in the World. He doesn’t even always drink beer. He is a man of discernment who probably made his money rakishly dealing on Wall Street. Now, he’s just having a good time, surrounded by women much younger than he.

Along come numbers, though, that might dry out a little of that impression.

Figures just released by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development suggest that the more successful you are, the more you drink.

In the OECD’s words: “People who are better educated and of higher socioeconomic status are more likely to drink alcohol than others.”

Men drink the most. Yes, the rich man with the whiskey glass cliche may well be accurate.
However, the OECD says: “The drinking behaviors of young, better educated women, and higher socioeconomic status women are converging to those of men.”

Drink and success have always been closely linked. History suggests it and marketing continues to relentlessly reinforce it—sometimes subtly, often less so.

We open champagne to celebrate, well, just about anything. Our sports teams pop a cork to pour the contents all over each other, as if the sweet smell of success can only be real if it has the perfume of Moet or Mumm.

Though it’s true that the wealthier drink more, they also engage more in what professionals describe as “frequent, light drinking.”

Dr. Priscilla Martinez of the Alcohol Research Group, based in Emeryville, California, told me: “Studies consistently show that drinking is more common among people with higher incomes compared to people with lower incomes, both in the U.S. and worldwide. However, many studies also show that people with lower incomes are more likely to engage in harmful drinking patterns, such as binge drinking.”

She added that a higher proportion of blacks, Latinos, and Asians in the U.S. abstain entirely from alcohol than does the white population.

There are considerable differences, however, when it comes to health effects on different ethnicities, an area that the ARG is working hard to understand.

Martinez told me: “Recent findings show that among blacks and Latinos who do drink, there is a higher likelihood they will experience alcohol-related problems at the same levels of alcohol use as their white counterparts.”

You expected justice? Surely not in this world. God’s likely been on the sauce too, after all.

The OECD did, however, suggest that there is some evidence that “moderate drinking may have a positive impact.”

And in what area most of all? Would you believe wages?

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Photo of friends drinking courtesy of Shutterstock.