78% of shift workers getting insufficient sleep

A new study highlights the effects shift work can have on diet, sleep and exercise

Written by Elise Goitia


A new safefood report has come out to reveal the effects shift work can have on diet, sleep, and physical exercise. The recent study, lead by , surveyed more than 1,000 people in order to understand better the factors that influence lifestyle habits while working in shifts.

The report found that 67% of people who worked shift hours reported skipping meals on work days, and almost 78% reported getting insufficient sleep. In addition, 35% are smokers, 28% high risk drinkers, and 64% are overweight.

“What’s noticeable from the research is how skipping meals, inadequate physical activity and insufficient sleep are commonly noted by shift workers as behaviours that impact upon them,” said Dr. Clare Corish, Associate Professor at the School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science at University College Dublin.

“We’re also seeing how the different workplace sectors play a role in those behaviours and how complex that can be – health and social care workers have poorer access to healthier food options with often an erratic, stressful work schedule but have healthier patterns of food consumption. The manufacturing sector has more defined work patterns and breaks and are more likely to have workplace facilities available but higher rates of smoking.”

Other influencing factors revealed in the report were gender and age, with men being more likely to be overweight than women, and younger shift workers having poorer dietary habits and higher alcohol consumption rates than older workers. Older workers have reported to have poorer insufficient sleep hours and exercise patterns.

“It has been long assumed that shift work has a negative impact on people’s health and increases the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer,” said Ray Dolan, CEO of safefood. “With the publication of this research, we’re beginning to address an important gap in our knowledge of both the barriers and potential public health interventions to improving the food and related lifestyle habits of people working shifts.”

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director of Human Health and Nutrition of safefood says that the findings show the necessity of targeting issues raised by shift workers in order to make a greater impact on the health of the labor force.

“It’s clear that we need to support younger and newer shift workers in order to enable them to adapt to shift hours,” she commented. “This will help create healthier habits they will hopefully take with them through their career.”

The report “Managing Food on Shift Work” is available to download from the safefood website at www.safefood.eu.


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