People who work in shifts have a higher chance of getting sick and being obese, claims one study on the workforce of the United Kingdom.
Serious Health Problems
A survey by the Health and Social Care Information Centre has concluded that shift workers live lifestyles that are less healthy than normal.
“Overall, people who are doing shift work are not quite as healthy as their counterparts doing regular working hours,” Health Survey for England research director Rachel Craig told the BBC.
In its survey of 3,232 retired and employed workers in the UK, the government agency found that 30% of shift workers are obese, while those who work regular hours have lower rates – 23% of women and 24% of men, respectively.
In terms of sickness, the shift workers also lose out. The survey shows 40% of men and 45% of women who work shifts suffer from different long-standing conditions. Common complaints include obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and back pain.
The figure is greater than the rate of long-standing conditions on the rest of the population, which sits at 36% for men and 39% for women.
The survey defines “shifts” as employment that has working hours outside 7 am to 7 pm.
The latest survey adds up to the mounting evidence on the unhealthy effects of working shifts in the body. Last November, the Occupational and Environmental Medicine published a study showing how shift work dulls the brain’s functions over time. On top of these, there are many reports and studies on the links between disrupted sleep and different diseases.
Recently, there are also claims that shift work also leads to a greater risk of developing cancer.
Zero-Hour Contracts and Younger People
In the UK, shift work is quite common among employees in the 16-24 age group. Almost half of this demographic work in shifts, some of whom work overnight.
The findings stir a greater concern that the work situation in the UK continues to get worse, says Craig. According to the research director, the numbers on the trend of shift work appears “slightly higher than in 2009.”
“It potentially does raise some pretty serious problems and throws a challenge to employers to support shift workers and come up with ways to mitigate the effect of working shifts,” she added.
Craig also explained the potential drawback of this trend to the entire healthcare system. More people in shifts mean more people who demand greater access to health care, which can have significant effects over time.