Faking a smile at work can lead to heavy drinking, says study

We love money because it makes life easy and fun. But to get money, you have to work. And to do your job properly, you have to follow some basic ground rules. For instance, you cannot wait on people with a gloomy face, even if you have serious personal issues weighing down on you.

That’s just the way it is – and every working adult who has to deal with strangers knows this by heart.

But although "service with a smile" might be good for business, and it could possibly brighten the customer’s day, it could also be a terrible thing for you.

Apparently, when you have to force a smile and avoid making other negative reactions such as rolling your eyes, you are likely to down a few more bottles of beer when you finally get off work.

This revelation was made after a study by Penn State and the University at Buffalo.

The study focused on the drinking habits of employees working in public view such as teachers, nurses, and people working in the food industry as servers.

In total, the study involved 3,000 people. The collection of this data was done with support from a grant by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

According to Alicia Grandley, one of the experts in the study, faking a smile and suppressing negative emotions makes someone less capable of keeping their alcohol intake in check after they get off work.

“Smiling as part of your job sounds like a really positive thing. But it can be draining.”

Therefore, these people ended up drinking more, even beyond what the stresses of their jobs or their negative feelings dictated. So, these people did not drink more because they felt bad, but because they have less control over their alcohol intake once they got off work.

Other things the study considered was how impulsive the employees were or how much they could control themselves while at their workplaces.

Generally speaking, there was a link between surface acting such as smiling when someone does not feel like it and high impulse actions. The people who are often in these industries, such as food service or call centers, also lack enough financial incentive to fake a smile all through.

Heavier drinking was also discovered among people who had little control over how they did their jobs. Therefore, people who have to be told what to do on a constant basis are more likely to end up being heavy drinkers as they lose their sense of self-control and keep drinking long after they should have stopped.

This is true because people who work in jobs that offer them greater financial rewards are less likely to drink excessively afterward.

An example of people who are uniquely affected by this problem are nurses, who have to remain positive for the sake of their patients in order to be comforting and caring. However, pretending to be positive towards someone they will likely never see again and still not get paid enough for the job can be quite demanding and draining.

Hopefully, this study will reach employers and help them treat their employees better. Service with a smile might not be off the table, and for very obvious reasons, but it might be worth considering giving employees better pay or giving them more autonomy while they work to keep them from bottling their emotions and letting them out in unhealthy ways later on.

Suppressing emotions is really bad. It’s actually quite unhealthy.