A pattern of coffee reliance during the day and alcohol dependency in the evening after work could be a symptom of employee stress.

A well-publicised study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and Imperial College London* found that drinking more coffee could be linked to a lower risk of death, but nurses agency RedArc is warning that a pattern of coffee reliance during the day and alcohol dependency in the evening after work could be a symptom of employee stress – and can be exacerbated in winter months.

Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says:

“Caffeine and alcohol are unhealthy ways to cope with stress and in fact they can perpetuate the situation rather than resolve it. We all know is can be harder to stay positive in the darker, winter months and so this caffeine/alcohol reliance becomes a viscous circle as employees rely on the stimulating properties of caffeine to get through the day and the sedative effects of alcohol to counteract the former later on. There is very close relationship between sleep and mental health and anything that disrupts getting a decent night’s shut-eye is not conducive to our mental wellbeing.”

Enjoying tea, coffee and wine in moderation is clearly okay but if consumed too regularly and in excess, it can be a signal that there is something else at stake and that that individual may be struggling to cope with either work pressures or issues outside of work. Regardless, stress, anxiety and depression – whatever the cause – are likely to impact on work performance and so employers should have measures in place to support staff before a mental health condition escalates.

Christine Husbands, continued:

Over the past few years we have seen a marked increase in the number of cases relating to mental health as well as the number of referrals to Employee Assistance Programmes. At this time of year, all staff need to be made aware of this ‘caffeine-alcohol’ culture and employers need to make support available directly, and via employee benefits, to support people with lifestyle issues, stress management, anxiety and sleep deprivation.”

Providing third-party nurse advisory services, via employee benefits such as EAPs, group risk and PMI products, is shown to be hugely beneficial as this is not the sort of problem that people traditionally approach their GP about. However, a combination of a dedicated Mental Health Personal Nurse Adviser and the assessed provision of the most appropriate therapy or counselling gives very positive results:

  • Based on two widely-used mental health screening tools (PHQ9 and GAD7*),  RedArc is able to monitor changes in the people they support, and finds that:
    • eight out of ten patients saw a reduction in both their PHQ9 and GAD7 scores, equating to their condition improving
    • the average reduction in the score for both tests was over 50 per cent
    • 70 per cent of patients recovered to normal mood levels within three to four months


*The study analysed the data of healthy people over the age of 35 from 10 EU countries and the study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.