Study shows increased risks for shift-workers
WRITTEN BY: Stanley Jackson
Working in shifts, particularly night shifts, leaves employees more susceptible to adverse health effects, a recent study shows.
The British Medical Journal study calculated that people who worked in shifts are 23 percent more likely to have a heart attack than their nine-to-five peers, as well as a five percent increase on the likelihood of having a stroke.
The team of researchers from Canada and Norway found that these conditions, as well as several others, were more common in shift workers than in those with more traditional working hours.
Dan Hackam, associate professor at Western University, London Ontario in Canada, said the problems arising from shift work could be attributed to the sleeping and dietary problems that shift workers tended to have.
“Night shift workers generally don’t have a defined rest period. They are in a state of perpetual nervous system activation which is especially bad for conditions such as obesity and cholesterol.
“Avoiding permanent night shifts, limiting shifts to a maximum of 12 hours and ensuring workers have a minimum of two full nights sleep between day and night shifts are simple, practical solutions that can help people to cope with shift work.”
The BMJ study made the following recommendations:
· No more than 48 hours a week averaged over a 17 week period
· A minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours
· A minimum weekly rest period of 24 or 48 consecutive hours averaged over 14 days
· A minimum of 20 minutes rest in any work period of more than 6 hours
· A maximum of 8 hours night work every 24 hours averaged over a 17 week period
· Free health assessments for night workers
· Paid annual leave of at least 4 weeks
Working odd hours leads to obvious problems in terms of lifestyle. Sleep loss, isolation and disconnection to society are all problems considered more prevalent in shift workers. Even so, the primary issues remain physiological: being awake at odd or irregular hours fights with our biological rhythms.
The problem though may be with working expectations themselves. The average working week continues to rise, and in the UK the average full time worker is now completing a 43 week, which is still rising, due to the demanding and hyper-competitive job market.