The Impact Of Shift Work On Health


Shift work can generally refer to work patterns that come after the normal working hours. This may include working evenings, overnight or irregular schedules arranged between employer and employee. For some it is mostly because of financial needs or the need to better their careers. It is imperative to mention that this may have adverse impacts on your health. Some effects are easily noticed while some take time to build up to dangerous levels.
The impact of shift work on health can be broadly categorized in two. This being short-term and long term effects.

Short term impacts

These are impacts that you begin to notice almost immediately you begin to do shift work. They mostly occur due to excessive working, limited rest or disruption of your off-time. They include the following:

• Fatigue

This general body tiredness. You tend to feel tired all the time due to lack of rest.

• Insomnia and Excessive sleeping

Insomnia is the inability to sleep. The body may adapt to patterns where you do need sleep. You may also suffer from cases where you sleep too much. Both cases happen because of disruption in sleep patterns and can have adverse effects.

• Increased risk of accidents and Injuries

• High levels of Gastrointestinal symptoms

This refers to the cases of increased stomach upsets, diarrhea, nausea and heartburn.

Long term impacts

These are impacts that you experience in the long run. Many researches have been conducted and many connections between those who work in shifts and serious health issues have been made. Long term health conditions associated with shift workers include:

• Diabetes

Research shows that this disease has been recorded with higher prevalence in people that work extra hours as compared to those who work normal hours. This may be as a result of the stress that comes with working shifts.

• Obesity

It is most definite that people who do shift work maintain a poor diet and do not exercise. They also experience a lot of hormone imbalance. There is a particular hormone called Leptin that regulates appetite. Its level in people that work extra hours is low so they tend to eat more as they feel hungrier. These factors combined lead to obesity.

• Depression and mood Disorders

Since shift work involves working extra hours, you may tend to be socially isolated. This in the end can reach levels that can cause psychological turmoil leading to depression. Some chemicals that help with mood may also be lowered leading to moodiness.

• Cancer

Many researchers have concluded that there is an increased risk of cancer in people that do shift work. Those who work overnight tend to have an increased percentage risk in developing cancerous tumors. Women in shift work are at higher risk of breast cancer. The hormones that help to suppress cancerous cells are mostly produced at night when one is resting. Therefore, lack of sleep can impact heavily in causing cancer.

• Cardiovascular diseases

This largely refers to heart diseases and heart attacks. Research work shows that there is a higher risk of heart attacks and heart diseases in people that work extra hours as compared to those that work normal hours. This may be a result of the stress that the body undergoes due to overworking and lack of rest.


Generally, when we compare the health of people who work normal hours to the health of those who do shift work, we find that those that work normal hours are healthier. This is because they are not overworked and have enough rest. It is therefore advisable to maintain a steady normal working routine in order to avoid the impacts of shift work on your health.