Bridging Disciplinary Boundaries (January 11 - 14, 2007)
Methods: 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%.
Results: 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). Two-thirds of all social workers drinking any alcoholic beverage in the last 12 months reported moderate emotional exhaustion (p < 0.05) and three-quarters reported moderate levels of deep acting-refocusing on the emotional labor scale (p < 0.05). Daily drinkers were less likely than non-drinkers to report high workload demands (OR = 0.45, p < 0.05, CI = 0.22-0.95). 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 used tranquilizers were twice as likely to report low overall life satisfaction (OR = 2.17, p < 0.05, CI = 1.09-4.34), and those who used painkillers were less likely to report high overall life satisfaction (OR = 0.37, p < 0.01, CI = 0.18-0.78).
Implications for practice or policy: Findings indicated that daily drinkers report low workload demands and the use of tranquilizers and painkillers for social workers are associated with overall life satisfaction. Training programs for social workers are recommended to address how job demands, burnout, styles of emotion management, and subjective assessments of life satisfaction may influence one's alcohol consumption and use of medications such as tranquilizers and painkillers.
Key words: emotional labor, emotional exhaustion, alcohol, medication use, workload, Portugal