The Influence of Alcohol Consumption and Sedative Use on Life Satisfaction in Portuguese Social Workers

By Maria Cisaltina da Silveira Nunes Dinis and Joseph R. Merighi.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

To assess the relationship between job-related emotional exhaustion, workload demands, life satisfaction, emotional labor, alcohol consumption, and medication use of social workers employed in Portugal. A sample of 370 social workers from mainland Portugal, Madeira, and the Azores was obtained for this study. All members of the Social Work Professional Association as of July 2005 (N=1,260) were sent a 134-item mail survey that assessed professional roles, practice-related issues, and alcohol and drug use. In addition, the following measures were included: Job Satisfaction Survey, Job-Related Affective Well-Being Scale, Job-Related Emotional Exhaustion Scale, Quantitative Workload Inventory, Emotional Labor Scale, and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule. The survey instrument was developed in American English, translated into Portuguese with the assistance of certified translators at the Portuguese Center of Social Work History and Research in Lisbon, Portugal, and back-translated to assure its clarity and accuracy. The response rate was 29.4%. Logistic regression was used to examine the predictors of alcohol/medication use, focusing on job-related emotional exhaustion, emotional labor, workload, and life satisfaction scales. Alcohol consumption in the last 12 months for female social workers (81%) was more than three times higher than the rate identified for females in the general population of Portugal (26%) during 1998/1999 (Marques-Vidal & Matias Dias, 2005). A high proportion of social workers reporting moderate emotional exhaustion (67%; p < 0.05) and moderate levels of deep acting-refocusing on the emotional labor scale (75%; p < 0.05) drank alcoholic beverages in the last 12 months. Those reporting high workload demands were less likely to be daily drinkers (OR = 0.43, p < 0.05, CI = 0.20-0.91). A similar proportion of social workers used tranquilizers (29%) and painkillers (31%) in the last 12 months. The use of tranquilizers and painkillers was associated with overall life satisfaction. Respondents who reported low overall life satisfaction were twice as likely to use tranquilizers (OR = 2.23, p < 0.05, CI = 1.08-4.62), and those who were less likely to report low overall job satisfaction drank heavily (OR = 0.36, p < 0.01, CI = 0.17-0.76). Findings indicated that social workers reporting low workload demands were daily drinkers and overall life satisfaction was associated with the use of tranquilizers and painkillers. Training programs for social workers are recommended to address how alcohol consumption and use of medications such as tranquilizers and painkillers may influence one’s reporting of job demands, burnout, styles of emotion management, and subjective assessments of life satisfaction.

Keywords: Emotional Labor, Emotional Exhaustion, Alcohol, Medication Use, Workload, Social Workers, Portugal

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.15-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 629.221KB).

Dr. Maria Cisaltina da Silveira Nunes Dinis

Associate Professor, Division of Social Work, California State University, Sacramento, Sacramento, USA

Maria Cesaltina Dinis, PhD, MSW, is an associate professor for the Division of Social Work at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS). Dr. Dinis is the Admissions Director for the Master of Social Work program at CSUS. Dr. Dinis is the Chair of the CSUS, Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) every Spring term and a member of the California Health and Human Services Agency, CPHS committee. She has published in the areas of alcohol and drug treatment, policy, and prevention. Her interests are in multicultural issues in regards to alcohol and drugs, women, and global social work. Dr. Dinis received her PhD from the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Joseph R. Merighi

Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, USA

Joseph R. Merighi is an Associate Professor of Human Behavior at Boston University School of Social Work. Dr. Merighi is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Nephrology Social Work, and he serves as a consulting editor for Social Work and the Journal of Social Work Education. His research focuses on social work practice in health care settings, with an emphasis on renal social work, and cross-national comparisons of job-related well-being of social work practitioners. In addition to his research and teaching, Dr. Merighi has served as a consultant for organizations such as the National Kidney Foundation’s Council of Nephrology Social Workers and United Cerebral Palsy. Dr. Merighi received his MSW and PhD from the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley.

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