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A recent survey by the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) has revealed that shift workers suffer from higher rates of obesity and ill-health than the general population.

The HSCIC was set up by the government in 2013 to provide information, data, and IT systems for commissioners, analysts and clinicians in health and social care. It is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department of Health.

The Survey

Subjects aged 16 years and above were questioned whether they worked in shifts (outside the hours of 7am-7pm) either ‘most of the time’, ‘occasionally’ or ‘never’. Subsequently, the participants who answered ‘most of the time’ or ‘occasionally’ were asked which type of shift work they were working.

Comparisons and analysis were then conducted between the two groups of shift and non-shift workers. It was found that both males and females who took part in shift work experienced fair or bad health when compared to their non-shift counterparts.

Additionally, shift workers were more likely to suffer from at least one longstanding illness in contrast to non-shift workers.  Shift workers also measured higher Body Mass Indexes (BMIs) and were more likely to suffer from Type II Diabetes.

Unfortunately, in the medical professions, shift work is unavoidable as injuries and illness don’t stop at night. However, as we see above, the lack of sleep (and accompanying health-risk factors) that come with shift work can have a massive effect on a doctor’s/nurse’s/paramedic’s ability to perform at their best, and further considerations must be made like they are within other industries such as the aviation industry.

The above health issues can be attributed to many factors; lack of sleep due to disruption of circadian rhythm, poor diet choices, increased levels of smoking and alcohol consumption.

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