Long-Term Health Effects
In the long run, it is possible for a demanding work schedule to
affect a person's health. However, studying health problems in work-
ers is difficult. If possible, workers will change jobs if they think the
work is making them ill. A shiftworker might change to a day job for
that reason. This is called the "healthy worker" or the "survivor"
effect. Workers who stay on the job are those who can "take it."
Because sick workers leave the job, it is much harder to show a rela-
tionship between job factors and poor health. Therefore, researchers
have only fairly healthy shiftworkers to study.
With that in mind, it is not clear whether or not one's
work schedule is the actual cause of health prob-
lems. But, workers who quit doing shiftwork often
point to health problems as a major reason for quit-
ting. Plus, a stressful schedule can combine with
other factors to hurt a person's health. If a person
has other major stresses in life, such as a bad mar-
riage or a loved one with a chronic illness, a
demanding work schedule certainly won't help the
situation. If a worker has poor health habits, such as
using too much alcohol or tobacco, it will be more
difficult to resist the stress of the work schedule. A
demanding schedule also might aggravate an existing
Digestive Problems: Some research has suggested that shiftworkers
have more upset stomachs, constipation, and stomach ulcers than day
workers. Other research has not backed up this suggestion. But, there
is always the problem of having only healthy workers to study.
Digestive problems could be more common in shiftworkers because
digestion follows a circadian rhythm. Usually people eat at regular
times during the day. They also eliminate waste at regular times dur-
ing the day. Shiftwork can interfere with regular eating and digestive
Health and Safety Effects of Shiftwork
Long-Term Health Effects In the long run, it is possible for a demanding work schedule to affect a person's health. If possible, workers will change jobs if they think the work is making them ill. But, workers who quit doing shiftwork often point to health problems as a major reason for quit- ting.