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Physical and Mental Health Effects of Shiftwork

Physical and Mental Health Effects of Shiftwork


For continuous income opportunities, occupational engagement is a must. Due to changing business landscape and work-related conditions, many employees work in shifts to keep the business processes running. Consequently, employees might have to work during days or nights, depending on the nature of the work they do. Gerber et al. (2010) stated that employees who work in shifts might have troubled family or personal life. In recent times, the prevalence of psychosomatic and psychiatric disorders among employees who work in shifts has continuously risen (Gerber et al., 2010). Empirical studies (Lin et al., 2014; Ferri et al., 2016) have argued that shift-working may have significant physical and mental health effects on the employees. However, conclusive evidence regarding the adverse impact of shiftwork on employees’ physical and psychological health remains debatable. As a result, this increasing concern over shift-working necessitated the importance of studying further the effects of physical and mental effects of shift work among employees. The current study aims to assess the physical and psychological health effects of shiftwork.


Literature Review
Mental Health and Shiftwork

Empirical studies (Figueiro and White, 2013; Joyce et al., 2010; Choobineh et al., 2012) that have examined the association between mental health and shiftwork have argued that shift workers are likely to develop anxiety and depression over time. For instance, the investigation conducted by Choobineh et al. (2012) reported a high likelihood of developing depression over ten years. Contrarily, the analysis of Vyas et al. (2012) has found a small probability of developing depressed mode over a more extended time. Figueiro and White (2013) argued that male workers aged over 45 years are highly likely to develop mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. However, it has been stated by Joyce et al. (2010) that the effect of shiftwork on mental health might vary significantly across professions since they have reported that nurses who are shift workers were highly at risk of developing depression more than any other profession. On the other hand, Vyas et al. (2012) argued that teachers are also highly likely to develop anxiety over time due to shiftwork. Nevertheless, empirical studies (Joyce et al., 2010; Ferri et al., 2016) agreed that shiftwork might affect the mental states of employees, but the degree might vary depending on several factors.

Physical Health and Shiftwork

Empirical studies (Rajaratnam, Howard, and Grunstein, 2013; Matheson, O’brien, and Reid, 2014; Hedström et al., 2011) that have examined the association between mental health and shiftwork have argued that employees who work in the shift are likely to develop physical complications such as cardiovascular disease and somatic symptoms. Rajaratnam, Howard, and Grunstein (2013) have argued that shiftwork often negatively affects the biological mechanisms such as desynchronisation of circadian rhythm and organism. Regarding the association between physical health and shiftwork, Hedström et al. (2011) have stated that physically intensive work, such as in the construction industry, might affect the employees most. Besides, Matheson, O’brien, and Reid (2014) have stated that work-related factors are also crucial in the study of shiftwork since different professions involve different work procedures and environments.



The methodology of the current study was developed in such a way that it would enable the assessment of the mental and physical effects of shiftwork. The evaluation of the impact of shiftwork has been completed based on the data collected from 10 employees who regularly work in shifts. These employees are sampled based on a convenience sampling strategy since it allowed collecting data from the participants when they were available for data collection. Thus, the sample size of the current study was ten employees. The data were collected based on a structured questionnaire including questions relevant to physical and mental health. The questionnaire was delivered to the participants alongside a consent form to ensure voluntary participation and maintain other ethical considerations. The questionnaire is attached in Appendix A. The data analysis was conducted using Microsoft Excel. This study was quantitative.


Analysis and Findings

The primary objective of the current study was to assess the physical and mental health effects of shiftwork on employees. To complete the assessment, the researcher has carried out multiple regression analyses to observe if shiftwork positively or negatively affected the employees. The analysis finding is discussed in the following sections.

Table 1: Summary of Correlation Analysis


Somatic Symptoms


Social Dysfunction

Severe Depression


-0.537 (0.110)

-0.761* (0.011)

-0.544 (0.104)

-0.819** (0.004)

** Correlation is significant at 0.01 level;     * Correlation is significant at 0.05 level

The correlation analysis indicates that the association between Shiftwork and Somatic Symptoms, Anxiety, Social Dysfunction, and Severe Depression is negative, but not all the correlation exhibited statistical significance. For instance, the association between Shiftwork and Anxiety was found to be negative and statistically significant. This indicates that shiftwork is negatively associated with anxiety. Alternatively, shift-working employees are likely to develop concern over time. In addition, the association between shiftwork and severe depression has also been found to be negative and statistically significant. This finding also indicates that shift workers are likely to suffer from severe depression. Conversely, somatic symptoms and social dysfunction were found to have a negative association with shiftwork but were not statistically significant.

Table 2: Summary of Regression Analysis






Somatic Symptoms










Social Dysfunction





Severe Depression





The table above shows that the regression models predicted that Shiftwork negatively affects Somatic Symptoms, Anxiety, Social Dysfunction, and Severe Depression. This finding resembles the implications of the results of correlation analysis. Similar to the effects of correlation analysis, it has been found that shiftwork significantly affects the level of anxiety and causing severe depression among employees. Both stress and severe depression were statistically significant, which implies that shift workers are highly likely to develop anxiety, and they might be subject to experiencing severe depression over time.

The findings of the current study suggested that shift working is a dangerous activity for the physical and mental health of employees since it increases the likelihood of developing anxiety and severe depression. This finding implies that shift workers need further attention from their respective employers to reduce their health risk due to shiftwork. Moreover, this finding is in line with the empirical results reported by Lowden et al. (2010), Puttonen, Härmä, and Hublin (2010), and Ferri et al. (2016). These studies have also stated that shiftwork negatively affects the physical and mental health of employees.


Evaluation of the Investigation

The current study had several limitations. First, the sample size of the present study was 10, which is considerably tiny to be considered to produce conclusive evidence as to the effects of shiftwork on physical and mental health. The second there is a questionnaire named General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), which is a 28-item questionnaire used to measure the physical and mental health of individuals that could have been used in the data collection procedure. This questionnaire is used in Ferri et al. (2016) and Joyce et al. (2010), where they have announced the reliability and validity of the measures.  Thus, GHQ would have been a better data collection tool for the current study. Since there were limitations, there remain scopes for further improvement. First, the sample size of future studies should have to be increased, and employees from different professional backgrounds should be included. This will allow diversity in the findings. Besides, the use of GHQ would undoubtedly improve the reliability and validity of the results.












Choobineh, A., Soltanzadeh, A., Tabatabaee, H., Jahangiri, M. and Khavaji, S., 2012. Health effects associated with shift work in 12-hour shift schedule among Iranian petrochemical employees. International journal of occupational safety and ergonomics, 18(3), pp.419-427.

Ferri, P., Guadi, M., Marcheselli, L., Balduzzi, S., Magnani, D. and Di Lorenzo, R., 2016. The impact of shift work on the psychological and physical health of nurses in a general hospital: a comparison between rotating night shifts and day shifts. Risk management and healthcare policy, 9, p.203.

Figueiro, M.G. and White, R.D., 2013. Health consequences of shift work and implications for structural design. Journal of Perinatology, 33(S1), p.S17.

Gerber, M., Hartmann, T., Brand, S., Holsboer-Trachsler, E. and Pühse, U., 2010. The relationship between shift work, perceived stress, sleep, and health in Swiss police officers. Journal of Criminal Justice, 38(6), pp.1167-1175.

Hedström, A.K., Åkerstedt, T., Hillert, J., Olsson, T. and Alfredsson, L., 2011. Shift work at a young age is associated with an increased risk for multiple sclerosis. Annals of neurology, 70(5), pp.733-741.

Joyce, K., Pabayo, R., Critchley, J.A. and Bambra, C., 2010. Flexible working conditions and their effects on employee health and wellbeing. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (2).

Lin, S.H., Liao, W.C., Chen, M.Y. and Fan, J.Y., 2014. The impact of shift work on nurses’ job stress, sleep quality, and self‐perceived health status. Journal of nursing management, 22(5), pp.604-612.

Lowden, A., Moreno, C., Holmbäck, U., Lennernäs, M. and Tucker, P., 2010. Eating and shift work—effects on habits, metabolism, and performance. Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health, pp.150-162.

Matheson, A., O’Brien, L. and Reid, J.A., 2014. The impact of shiftwork on health: a literature review. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 23(23-24), pp.3309-3320.

Puttonen, S., Härmä, M. and Hublin, C., 2010. Shift work and cardiovascular disease—pathways from circadian stress to morbidity. Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health, pp.96-108.

Rajaratnam, S.M., Howard, M.E. and Grunstein, R.R., 2013. Sleep loss and circadian disruption in shift work: health burden and management. Medical Journal of Australia, 199, pp.S11-S15.

Vyas, M.V., Garg, A.X., Iansavichus, A.V., Costella, J., Donner, A., Laugsand, L.E., Janszky, I., Mrkobrada, M., Parraga, G. and Hackam, D.G., 2012. Shift work and vascular events: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 345, p.e4800.

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