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Mental Health Consequences of Shift Work: An Updated Review

Abstract

Purpose of Review

Approximately 25% of employed individuals engage in shift work, which can substantially alter opportunities for restorative sleep. Being tired on the job can lead to safety risks in professions such as healthcare, first responders, manufacturing, and numerous others. In addition to the physical stress and health consequences of shift work, recent evidence links shift work to poor mental health outcomes. The current review examines the literature from 2016 onward, emphasizing the impact of shift work on mental health.

Recent Findings

Shift work is associated with considerable impacts on sleep, depressed mood and anxiety, substance use, impairments in cognition, lower quality of life, and even suicidal ideation. Pronounced sleep disturbances frequently underlie the mental health consequences of shift work.

Summary

Shift work can have physical, mental health, and safety consequences. Future research should aim to better understand the interplay of shift work, sleep, and mental health and seek to mitigate the adverse consequences of shift work.

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Correspondence to Jessica P. Brown.

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Conflict of Interest

Jessica P. Brown, Destiny Martin, Zain Nagaria, Avelino C. Verceles, and Sophia L. Jobe each declare no potential conflicts of interest. Emerson M. Wickwire’s institution has received research support from AASM Foundation, Department of Defense, Merck, and ResMed. Dr. Wickwire has served as a scientific consultant for Eisai, DayZz, Merck, and Purdue and is an equity shareholder in WellTap.

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Brown, J.P., Martin, D., Nagaria, Z. et al. Mental Health Consequences of Shift Work: An Updated Review. Curr Psychiatry Rep 22, 7 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-020-1131-z

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Keywords

  • Shift work
  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Substance use
  • Cognition
  • Insomnia