Shift work, sleep disorders and mental health in young adults

Reynolds AC, Lechat B, Melaku YA, Sansom K, Brown BWJ, Crowther ME, Wanstall S, Maddison KJ, Walsh JH, Straker L, Adams RJT, McArdle N, Eastwood PR. 28 Sep 2022 Sci Rep; 12(1):16255. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-20308-2

Publication date: 28 Sep 2022

Keywords: insomnia, non standard work, obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs, shift work

What is already known about this subject:

  • Mental health conditions confer considerable global disease burden in young adults, the highest demographic to work shifts, and of whom 20% who meet criteria for a sleep disorder. Yet, it is unclear whether the combined effect of shift work and sleep disorders confers an increased, and potentially manageable, burden for mental health. We examined the relationship between shift work, clinical sleep disorders and mental health in young workers.

What this study adds

  • We used data from 660 Gen2 Raine participants (Gen2-22 follow up).
  • Anxiety was measured using the General Anxiety Disorder Questionnaire (GAD-7) and depression with the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Multivariable adjusted robust linear regression models with M estimators were conducted.
  • At least one clinically significant sleep disorder was present in 1 in 5 young workers. These sleep disorders were previously undiagnosed in 79% and 81% of shift and non-shift workers, respectively. Scores for anxiety and depression were not different between shift and non-shift workers; but were higher in those with a sleep disorder than those without, even when we account for sex, health comorbidities, and typical work hours per week.
  • Clinical sleep disorders are common in young workers, are largely undiagnosed, and are associated with poorer mental health. Measures of mental health do not appear be different between young adult shift and non-shift workers. Identifying and treating clinical sleep disorders is a potentially important strategy for supporting good mental health in young workers.
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