Published on 19 December 2014

A new study into the effects of shift work has found that people working irregular hours could be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.      

The report by the Health and Social Care Information Centre found that ill health and obesity were common among those working outside of the hours 7am to 7pm.

Current figures suggest that 33% of men and 22% of women are in shift work, and the report findings suggest this could have an effect on the nation’s health.

The report found that men and women in shift work were more likely than non-shift workers to have type 2 diabetes (10% of both men and women in shift work, compared with 9% and 7% respectively of those not working shifts).

The report added: “Research suggests a relationship between shift work and obesity and an increased risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes. The highest risk group are men on rotating shifts as their circadian rhythms are constantly distorted and their bodies fail to produce appropriate insulin levels as a result.”

In addition to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes the study showed that 30% of shift workers were obese, compared with 24% of men and 23% of women doing normal hours.

In addition, 40% of men and 45% of women on shifts had long-standing health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, back-pain or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease compared with 36% and 39% of the rest of the population.

Shift working is most common in the 16-24 age group with nearly half of men and a third of women having this working pattern.

The rates fell with age so that fewer than a third of men and a fifth of women were working shifts after the age of 55.

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