New survey results released by Men’s Health Network and Cephalon, Inc. found that people working nontraditional hours, such as overnight shifts, report that such shifts can negatively impact their health, work and well-being. The survey of more than 1,500 shift workers revealed that the majority of people with nontraditional work hours (79 percent) believe that they are negatively impacted by their shift work and report issues from negative emotions to concern about sex life and decreased time spent with family to issues associated with work productivity. Nevertheless, of the 52 percent of shift workers who want a change in job or hours, most don’t think it will be possible in the near future and 44 percent feel that they will have the same job until they retire.
The survey results suggested an impact of shift work on people’s work productivity, with one in three shift workers reporting having missed work altogether at least once in the past year because they were too tired. And three in 10 surveyed (29 percent) said that they have dozed off at work in the past month, most of them multiple times, with another 37 percent saying they’ve come close. Still, more people surveyed are worried about job security than their own safety.
In terms of emotional impact, more than half surveyed reported feeling frustrated and drained in the last week, with many others reporting irritability (42 percent), anxiety (36 percent) and anger (32 percent). Survey respondents also report daily concern for their energy level (47 percent), weight (43 percent), ability to get enough sleep (39 percent) and their sex lives (30 percent). The average shift worker has not had a meal with their family in two weeks or exercised in 24 days.
“While the physical and emotional toll that shift workers are reporting is certainly of great concern, to me the most alarming finding of the survey is that a great majority of shift worker respondents (72 percent) seem to think that being tired is ‘just a part of the job’ and do not consider speaking with their physician about their symptoms,” says Jean J.E. Bonhomme, MD, MPH, spokesperson for Men’s Health Network and Cephalon. “What we know is that people who work nontraditional hours may be suffering from a real medical condition called shift work disorder that can be diagnosed and treated by a doctor, if only they mention their work schedule during physician visits.”
Shift work disorder is a recognized medical condition that occurs when an individual’s internal sleep-wake clock is not in sync with their work schedule. Because of this disruption to the body’s natural rhythm, people with shift work disorder may struggle to stay awake during their working hours, known as excessive sleepiness, or have trouble sleeping during their sleeping hours, known as insomnia.
“It is easy to ignore the overall health impact of our work schedules, but it’s so important that people experiencing excessive sleepiness and/or insomnia take the time to see a doctor and mention that they work nontraditional shifts,” says Dr. Bonhomme. “Very often shift work disorder goes undiagnosed because either the physician or the patient is not making the connections between the symptoms, work schedule and condition.”
For more information about shift work disorder, please visit http://www.TheWakeUpSquad.com.