Shift workers sicker and heavier
More research has found that shift workers tend to have an increased risk of obesity and other health complications, when compared with the general population.
The findings were published in a report by the Health and Social Information Centre, called the Health Survey for England. It compared data on men and women of working age who either worked regularly between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. with that of men and women who worked in shifts that involved being on the job outside those conventional work hours.
The data showed that about 30 percent of the shift workers were obese, compared with about 24 percent of those working regular hours. About 40 to 45 percent of shift workers were found to have back pain, diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, compared with about 36 to 39 percent of the rest of the study's participants.
The report also found it noteworthy that these negative health effects are occuring despite the fact that a high percentage of shift workers are younger adults, between the ages of 16 and 24. The scientists said that they expected fewer health complications for that reason. The scisentists also expressed concern that the number of people doing shift work seems to be increasing.
Why shift workers seem to have more health complications than the general population is still not clear. However, experts said that the disrupted asleep associated with shift work may affect the body's normal rhythms, which may lead to various diseases. They added that eating late at night or taking up smoking may also contribute to obesity, diabetes and other health problems.