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Study: Forcing a smile at work may turn you into a heavier drinker off the clock

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – If the smile you wear at work is plastered on for customers, you may be hitting the bottle harder than your happier coworkers, a new study from Penn State and the University of Buffalo said.

The study focused on people who routinely work with the public, such as teachers, nurses and people in the food service industry.

Researchers said people who force themselves to be happy or try to hide feelings of annoyance may be at risk for heavier drinking.

Overall, researchers found that employees who worked with the public more drank more off the clock.

“Faking and suppressing emotions with customers was related to drinking beyond the stress of the job or feeling negatively,” Alicia Grandey, professor of psychology at Penn State, said in a press release. “It wasn’t just feeling badly that makes them reach for a drink. Instead, the more they have to control negative emotions at work, the less they are able to control their alcohol intake after work.”

The study said “surface acting” or faking emotions, was also linked to more drinking.

According to a release, previous research saw a link between service workers and drinking problems. This study hypothesizes that when people have to control themselves at work – like not rolling their eyes, for example – they have a harder time controlling themselves in other areas.

Researchers used data from phone interviews with 1,592 U.S. workers. They hope workers will be able to use this information to create a healthier environment.

“Employers may want to consider allowing employees to have a little more autonomy at work, like they have some kind of choice on the job,” Grandey said in the release. “And when the emotional effort is clearly linked to financial or relational rewards, the effects aren’t so bad.”

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