Work shifts and the effects on your health

work shifts and its effect on your health

Today in age of globalization, modernization where we seek everything to be available at a click of a button or a tap on the phone anywhere, anytime; it has become a necessity for organizations both private and public to provide their services round the clock! Shift work – essentially anything other than a regular daytime work schedule – has become mainstream in India too.

Particularly the night shift from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. also called the graveyard shift. Initially doctors, nurses, policemen, construction/ factory workers, security guards, etc predominated the nocturnal workforce but now with the increase in business process outsourcing -energy brokers, computer programmers, and financial advisors, and many others are joining the ranks.

Growth in night shift work is rooted in the growing global economy. As more businesses and workforces operate and compete in multiple time-zones across countries’ borders, the 24-hour work day is taking its hold almost everywhere.

But, the ever-increasing night shifts are taking a serious toll on the health of these employees.  Research into the impact of shift work on professionals has consistently identified a range of negative outcomes in physical, psychological, and social domains

The latest research points to the following about the health effects of shift work:

  • Long-term night shift workers probably have an elevated risk of breast cancer, and a potentially elevated risk of colorectal cancer. Experts suggest that shift work involves circadian disruption (normal sleep-wake cycle) and is probably carcinogenic to humans.
  • Elevated risks of gastrointestinal disorders, mental health problems (including depression) and preterm delivery during pregnancy are indicated among shift workers.
  • Shift workers, particularly those working nights, face a higher risk of getting hurt on the job than regular day workers. The risk is particularly high in the second hour of a night shift.
  • The association between shift work and heart disease is inconsistent. Although previous studies found a link between the two, a more recent systematic review found only limited evidence.
  • People who work night shifts are likely to sleep less and/or more poorly than regular day workers.


As for ways to reduce these health risks among shift workers. While there is no way in which night shifts can be done away with, reducing their frequency to less than three in a row can help.

Also, limiting weekend work, moving from backward to forward shift rotations, and using a participatory approach to the design of shift schedules are useful approaches.


Stay healthy with eKincare – your personal health manager!


Dr. Pooja, Senior Nutritionist

Author: drpoojachhawcharia

Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.

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