Female shift workers higher risk of poor mental health

Overworked female nurse crying sitting in front laptop in dark room, stress

Shift workers are at higher risk for poor mental health, particularly symptoms of depression, new research shows.


Women were especially affected, with a 70% higher risk of depression among shift workers, compared to women who worked day shifts, according to the study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers reviewed seven longitudinal studies involving 28,431 people. Shift work was characterised by employees working outside the standard hours of 7am to 6pm.

To be included, studies had to be longitudinal or case-control studies of shift work exposure associated with adverse mental health outcomes.

“Because shift work includes night work, the normal sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm) is disrupted, with potential consequences for shift workers’ physical and mental health,” lead author of the University of Exeter Dr Luciana Torquati said.

Shift work was associated with increased overall risk of adverse mental health outcomes combined and specifically for depressive symptoms.

Compared to people who work standard hours, shift workers had a 30% higher risk of poor mental health and depression.

Female shift workers were more likely to experience depressive symptoms than non-shift workers.

“To our knowledge, this is the first meta-analysis to investigate the pooled effects of shift work on the risk of poor mental health, including subanalyses by type of poor mental health and gender.

“Shift workers, particularly women, are at increased risk for poor mental health, particularly depressive symptoms,” wrote the researchers.

Study researchers called for programs to minimise poor mental health among shift workers.

“Depression accounts for 4.3% of the global burden of disease and incidence. With one in five people in the United States and Europe doing shift work, and the increased risk of poor mental health among shift workers, shift work industries are a priority context for reducing this burden.

“Workplace health promotion programs and policies are needed to minimise shift workers’ risk of poor mental health.”

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