5 Reasons Shift Work is Bad for Your Health

View as:|
1 of 6

Working long hours during normal hours can be exhausting enough, but people who regularly shift work may have more health risks than just feeling sleepy. Here is some of the latest research.

Fertility issues

Women who work shifts are more likely to have reduced fertility compared with women who work normal hours. The study did a meta-analysis on data which covered 120,000 women, and found that those who worked shifts had an 80 percent higher rate of fertility problems and a 33 percent higher rate of disrupted menstrual periods, compared to women working regular hours.

Ovarian cancer risk

Working the night shift could be an important risk factor for ovarian cancer.  Researchers found that among the women with invasive cancer, around 27 percent had worked a night shift, compared to 32 percent of those with borderline disease and 23 percent of the comparison group. The night shift was also associated with a 24 percent increased risk of developing advanced cancer and a 49 percent increased risk of developing an early stage of the disease.

Breast cancer risk

A study found that women who work night shifts for 30 or more years double their risk of developing breast cancer. The Canadian study looked at 1,134 women with breast cancer and 1,179 women without the disease. Researchers believe that night-time artificial lighting may suppress the production of melatonin, which can lead to increased production of estrogen. This increase may trigger breast cancer in some women.

Unhealthy eating habits

Unhealthy eating among shift workers should be considered an occupational health hazard. Researchers say that 15 to 20 percent of workers in the U.S. and Europe are on a shift work schedule, and many of them have poor eating patterns and eat junk food out of convenience. They say that governments need to legislate to improve shift worker habits and make it easier and cheaper to find healthy options.

Stroke and heart attack risk

Shift work is linked to a higher risk for heart attack and ischemic stroke.  Researchers found that compared to regular workers, shift workers had a 24 percent higher risk for coronary events, 23 percent higher risk for heart attack and 5 percent higher risk for stroke.