By David Ray, July 7, 2020

Night shift work has been a common feature of industrial economies for decades, and it has long been known that working through the night can negatively impact upon health. In recent years, the evidence base about these health impacts has expanded considerably. Here, Professor David Ray introduces this evidence and highlights how employers and policymakers should be paying increased attention to this issue. 

  • There is a growing body of evidence for the adverse mental and physical health impacts of night shift working
  • Recent research has revealed a wider number of health conditions that are related to night shift work, including a number of cancers
  • The implications of this new evidence for employers, policymakers, and workers, makes a wider conversation about managing and mitigating the impacts of night shift work essential


Nightshift work increases the risk of mental health issues, including mood disorder, and sleep disorder. In addition, there is an increase in the risk of metabolic diseases including obesity, and diabetes, malignant diseases, including breast and prostate cancers, and inflammatory diseases, including asthma.

New information identifies that night shiftwork carries a clear, and significant risk to mental and physical health, even after other factors such as smoking, have been taken into account.  Importantly, we now understand why shiftwork carries the risk. This is misalignment of the biological clock in the worker with the external light-dark environment. This is a major advance, as it offers a rational target for intervention to protect the health of nightshift workers.

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