Shift work hurting health

Non-standard schedules hit men hardest, may take a toll on health in the long run

Shift work is hurting the health of workers, particularly men, according to a new report from Statistics Canada.

In 2000 and 2001, about three out of 10 employed Canadians reported working some type of shift. About 30 per cent of men and 26 per cent of women aged 18 to 54 worked non-standard schedules. Many shift workers reported problems ranging from sleep disturbance to difficulties with relationships. For most of them, working shift was not a choice, but a requirement of employment.

The report, in the latest issue of Statistics Canada’s Health Reports, focuses on the impact shift work had on workers over a four-year period in the mid-1990s.

Men who worked an evening, rotating or irregular shift had increased odds of being diagnosed with a chronic condition. For women, working a non-standard schedule was not associated with a new diagnosis of chronic conditions.

Sleep problems

Men and women who worked shift were more likely to have trouble falling, and staying, asleep than regular daytime workers.

Shift workers were also more likely to say their sleep wasn’t refreshing, even though the majority got at least six hours of sleep per day.

Particularly hard for men

A high percentage of married men working evenings reported relationship problems with their spouse, and single men had more difficulty in finding a partner than those with regular daytime hours.

Men who worked an evening shift were more likely to smoke. About 45 per cent of men working the evening shift smoke, compared to 27 per cent of their daytime counterparts.

In the long run

The study concludes, in the long run, that shift work may exact a toll on health.

“The rigours of working shift may be reflected in the fact that few maintain those hours over several years,” the report states. “Among men and women who worked shift in 1994-95, less than a third continued to do so in both 1996-97 and 1998-99. For the evening shift, the figure was less than one in five.”

Canadian HR Reporter has covered this topic in detail, including an interesting case involving a Nova Scotia man who won a WCB claim for shift work. Click below for this article and more.

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