According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, nurses who work long shifts, overtime or other adverse work schedules could be at greater risk of obesity.

The study, conducted by Alison M. Trinkoff, ScD, RN, and colleagues of University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, examined data on more than 1,700 female nurses.

The team set out to determine factors associated to obesity in nurses who worked long hours, were on call, worked overtime, had a high work burden, and/or lack of rest.

Around 700 nurses met these criteria while 1,000 nurses had a more favorable work schedule. According to the the researchers approximately 55% of nurses in both groups were either overweight or obese.

The researchers found that obese nurses with adverse work schedules got less exercise, less sleep, less restful sleep and were more likely to care for children or dependents.

In addition they found that for nurses with favorable work schedules, obesity was associated more unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol use, smoking, and physical lifting of children or dependents. The risk of obesity was also linked with factors reflecting job stress. According to the researchers, more attention is required in order to prevent obesity and protect health among nurses who work long shifts or adverse work schedules.

Dr. Trinkoff said: “Adverse work schedules may be an overriding work-related factor for nurse obesity.”

The researchers believe that nurses with adverse work schedules may also find it challenging accessing healthy foods.

Dr. Trinkoff explained:

“These nurses may need extra support to prevent obesity and its adverse health effects. In particular, for nurses with unfavorable work schedules, organizations should support improving schedules and promote the ability to practice healthy behaviors.”

Written by Grace Rattue