A qualitative exploration of the shift work experience: the perceived effect on eating habits, lifestyle behaviours and psychosocial wellbeing

Fiona M Nea, L. Kirsty Pourshahidi, John M Kearney, M. Barbara E. Livingstone, Carolina Bassul, Clare A Corish

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Background Approximately 17% of the European workforce is engaged in shift work. How the experience of shift work impacts on the dietary and lifestyle practices of workers is unclear.Methods Overall, 15 focus groups were conducted by two researchers, with 109 participants. The initial focus group was carried out with both researchers present, to ensure consistency in facilitation. Both researchers thematically analysed all data collected.Results Shift work was described as affecting many areas of workers’ lives. Three overarching themes were identified: (i) impact on eating behaviour; (ii) impact on other lifestyle behaviours including physical activity, sleep, alcohol consumption, smoking; and (iii) impact on psychosocial health and wellbeing. There appeared to be overlap between the effect of shift work and the effect of individual internal factors in influencing workers’ decision-making with regard to lifestyle practices.Conclusions Shift work affects many areas of workers’ lives, negatively impacting on eating and lifestyle behaviours and psychosocial health. This study augments the current literature as it highlights the role internal motivation plays in workers’ lifestyle choices. The research should help inform the development of public health strategies to minimize the impact of shift work, such as specialist behavioural change interventions specific to this group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalJournal of Public Health
Early online date13 Mar 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Mar 2018



  • beliefs
  • food and nutrition
  • work environment

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