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9th June 2004 Irregular hours 'make staff ill'

Article - Irregular hours 'make staff ill'
Shift workers are more likely to suffer from depression or end up in a car crash because of exhaustion brought on by irregular hours, a report has said.

Working unpredictable hours also causes other problems such as insomnia and memory lapses, according to the survey by insurance group Zurich.

One in seven people questioned who did shift work said they had almost nodded off while driving.

A fifth suffered from insomnia and more than one in 10 experienced depression.

Police officers, firefighters and nurses were typical of those workers in the front line working difficult hours.

Almost a fifth worked shifts lasting between 16 and 18 hours a day and one in 10 revealed that they had worked for 24 hours at one stretch.

One in four nurses questioned said irregular hours were the worst part of their job.

And around 7% of shift workers said they would take a pay cut if they could work normal hours.

"The research shows that shift work can have a detrimental effect on the general well-being of public service workers, impacting on concentration levels, their work performance and home life," said Vanessa Brindley, marketing manager of Zurich.

Suggestions from Zurich to combat stress caused by long and unpredictable shifts include eating high protein food, exercising regularly and taking power naps.

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