Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2015;41(4):356-367    pdf full text

doi:10.5271/sjweh.3497 | Published online: 07 Apr 2015, Issue date: 01 Jul 2015

The ageing shift worker: a prospective cohort study on need for recovery, disability, and retirement intentions

by Gommans F, Jansen N, Stynen D, de Grip A, Kant I

Objectives This study investigates whether different shift work schedules, compared to day work, are associated with need for recovery (NFR), future disability, and retirement intentions for employees employed within different economic sectors over the course of their careers. Shift work exposure duration and the healthy worker effect are also examined.

Methods Data from the prospective Maastricht Cohort Study was used. Subsamples of industry (N=1877, all men) and healthcare (N=818, 624 women and 194 men) workers were separately investigated. GEE and Cox regression analyses were performed to investigate NFR longitudinally. Future disability was investigated using Cox regression, and retirement intentions were investigated using logistic regression analysis.

Results Three-shift industry workers were at risk of becoming a case of elevated NFR during follow-up, compared to industry day workers. Three- and five-shift industry workers were at risk for future disability. In healthcare, irregular shift work was a risk factor for disability among older shift workers. No significant results were found regarding retirement intentions. Findings were probably an underestimation as exposure duration to shift work and the healthy worker effect affected the results.

Conclusions Shift work was associated with higher levels of NFR and a higher risk of disability. However, shift work is a multifaceted concept as different types of shift work schedules are differently associated with these outcomes. Different shift work types exist and shift work schedules allow for optimization, indicating that measures to prevent adverse outcomes should be tailored for different types of shift work and over the course of the work career.

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