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Shift workers 'more likely to be overweight, smoke and get too little sleep'

Published 24/10/2016

Researchers called for workplace initiatives to help with smoking cessation
Researchers called for workplace initiatives to help with smoking cessation

Shift workers are more likely to be overweight, smokers and suffer from a lack of sleep, a study has found.

The research also found that lack of breaks, shift patterns, poor availability of food and tiredness due to long working hours were the most common barriers they reported to leading a healthier lifestyle.

The report for all-island organisation Safefood showed 67% said they skipped meals on work days and 78% did not get enough sleep.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of human health and nutrition with Safefood, said: "It's clear that we need to support younger and newer shift workers in order to enable them to adapt to shift hours.

"This will help create healthier habits they will hopefully take with them through their career."

Gender and age were also significant, the researchers found.

Men reported poorer dietary habits than women and were more likely to report being overweight, while younger shift workers had poorer diets and drank more and older workers reported poorer sleep patterns and lower levels of physical activity.

The research involved telephone interviews with 1,300 workers.

Dr Foley-Nolan added: "Smoking and a smoking culture at work are related to poor dietary habits and this research backs the need for workplace initiatives to help with smoking cessation.

"The role of employers in these issues can't be underestimated. Shift workers deserve improved eating facilities, whether that's canteens, work kitchens or healthier vending machines, and reasonable time to take breaks. Both parties have a stake in having a healthier workforce and the benefits that brings."

The research found:

:: In the hospitality and food industry, 67% of workers skip meals on work days; 35% smoke; 28% are high-risk drinkers; 60% get insufficient sleep; and 40% are overweight.

:: In the health and social care sector, 64% skip meals on work days; 26% smoke; 24% are high-risk drinkers; 67% get insufficient sleep; and 51% are overweight.

:: In manufacturing, 54% of workers skip meals on work days; 30% smoke; 15% are high-risk drinkers; 78% get insufficient sleep; and 64% are overweight.

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