Traditionally only a small proportion of the workforce was engaged in shift work. Changing economic pressures have resulted in increased engagement in shift work, with approximately 17 % of the workforce in Europe engaged in this work pattern. The present narrative review aimed to summarise the data on the effects of shift work on the diet, lifestyle and health of employees, while addressing the barriers to, and opportunities for, improving health among shift workers. Shift work can result in low-quality diet and irregular eating patterns. Adverse health behaviours are also reported; particularly increased smoking and poor sleep patterns. These altered lifestyle habits, in conjunction with disruption to circadian rhythms, can create an unfavourable metabolic phenotype which facilitates the development and progression of chronic disease. Although the data are inconclusive due to issues such as poor study design and inadequate control for confounding factors; shift workers appear to be at increased mental and physical health risk, particularly with regard to non-communicable diseases. Information is lacking on the obstacles to leading a healthier lifestyle while working shifts, and where opportunities lie for intervention and health promotion among this group. In order to provide an informed evidence base to assist shift workers in overcoming associated occupational hazards, this gap must be addressed. This review highlights the unique nutritional issues faced by shift workers, and the subsequent effect on health. In societies already burdened with increased incidence of non-communicable chronic diseases, there is a clear need for education and behaviour change interventions among this group.
- Dietary habits
- Shift workers