The hidden health risks of working the night shift

January 13, 2016

nurse_2685026bThirty-one year-old intensive care nurse loves her job; she just wishes it didn’t leave her body clock completely thrown. Nausea, tiredness, irritability and forgetfulness are just some of the symptoms she reports during an average hospital nightshift.  More than 3 million people in the UK work nights –one in 12 of the working population – yet a growing body of research points to the negative health impacts of night shifts. The list runs from a heightened risk of obesity and diabetes through to a greater likelihood of cardiovascular disease and even breast cancer.

Working nights – which is defined as any shift that includes at least three hours between 11pm to 6am.

Despite this emerging evidence, labour statistics indicate that the number of people regularly working nights is increasing year-on-year, up 6.9% between 2007 and 2014, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC). The types of jobs requiring night work are changing too, with a move away from manufacturing and manual work to service industries such as retail, healthcare and transport. In light of such trends, health experts and employee groups fear that too few employers have comprehensive policies in place to mitigate the risks associated with night work.

“It’s not sufficient to say we’ll do what we do in the day time at night and just pretend it’s all the same, because the evidence is clear that it’s not the same and there are big hazards with it,” says Kevin Friery, clinical director at Workplace Wellness.