When her children started school, Susan* felt fortunate to land a job as a nightshift nurse, a job that would enable her to be there for her children when they came home in the afternoon. Even though the work was demanding, a year into her new job she felt confident about understanding her job duties and mastering necessary skills. However, what she did not understand was why her new work uniform no longer fit comfortably, and she was concerned about the health effects of gaining weight.
Workers who work outside of regular daytime schedules—night shift workers—may experience greater levels of job strain. Few studies, however, have examined shift work and job strain together in connection with weight gain. Now a study in progress by NIOSH investigators and their university partners is looking at the joint effect of shift work and job strain on women’s weight gain over 4 years. The investigators plan to control for other factors that could affect weight gain, including age, race and ethnicity, pregnancy history, job types, change in family situations, and health behavior.
Investigators analyzed data from 52,622 women who enrolled in the nationwide Nurses’ Health Study II in 1989. At the time of enrollment, the average age was 39 years. Since shift work is an inherent part of nursing, studies like this one are important to clarify the health effects of shift work and to develop interventions to protect nurses’ health. Two important areas for interventions are reducing job strain and supporting night shift workers, according to the NIOSH study.
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*Susan is a fictional person.