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Shift work – the good, the bad and the unhealthy

3 min read

For some people shift work is a blessing – but for others it’s a curse.

One obvious advantage is the flexibility to help  manage childcare arrangements and other family and school commitments.

Shift work may also offer financial benefits with penalty rates and loadings paid to workers. And, some people actually prefer to be sleeping when other people are working and vice versa.

Shift work is necessary practice across many industries and is an integral part of the transport industry.

But, shift work can impact many areas of a worker’s life and health – both mental and physical.

A study in 2021 from the Advanced Journal of Advanced Nursing* found that shift workers were more likely than their non-shift work counterparts to report poorer overall health, to have higher levels of psychological distress, and to engage in greater levels of unhealthy behaviours (higher alcohol consumption, and greater levels of smoking). These differences were highest in male shift workers.

The impact of shift work on sleep, mental health, nutrition, physical activity, smoking, drugs and alcohol and situational factors can have a big influence on your health.

Fatigue from tiredness  and lack of sleep can also lead to errors in the workplace.

Unfortunately for many there can be a tendency for many shift workers to avoid focus on their health as it’s just too hard.

That’s why we’ve put together some strategies to stop your shift work  negatively affecting your health.

Here are some tips to help you overcome these negative effects of working shifts.

  • Exercise regularly – walking is great exercise whatever your age or fitness level, with most smartphones having a built-in pedometer. Even 500 steps a day is a great start.
  • Eat well – regular meals & healthy snacks will keep you energised for longer.
  • Keep a healthy weight – if you have trouble keeping weight off, you can use your Extras cover to see a dietician.
  • Quit smoking – the Department of Health h www.health.gov.au/health-topics/smoking-and-tobacco/how-to-quit-smoking www.health.gov.au/health-topics/smoking-and-tobacco/how-to-quit-smoking
  • Cut down on alcohol – try drinking light beer or diluting mixed drinks with soft drink. If you find you can’t stop after one or two drinks, you might need to talk to your GP or seek help via support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Try to get a good amount of sleep. Read more about how to get enough sleep for shift workers. www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/shiftwork.html

* www.ajan.com.au/index.php/AJAN/article/view/181

DISCLAIMER: This wellbeing message is brought to you by the health and wellbeing team at rt health – a division of the Hospitals Contribution Fund. The health information provided here is intended to be informative only and should be carefully evaluated for its source, accuracy, completeness and relevance for your purposes. It is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. Always obtain appropriate professional advice relevant to your particular circumstances.

Shift work – the good, the bad and the unhealthy