Recognition of Shift Work Disorder

Research examining the impact of shift work was presented at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii this week. A study evaluating the effects of shift work found that both excessive sleepiness and insomnia associated with shift work seriously impacted the lives of shift workers; shift workers do not always recognize their own symptoms of shift work disorder; and healthcare professionals believe that shift work disorder is missed two-thirds of the time.

Researchers used a structured online survey of 260 shift workers and 673 healthcare professionals to examine the impact of excessive sleepiness associated with shift work and diagnosis of shift work disorder. Energy level (72 percent of respondents), emotional health (52 percent), and physical health (51 percent) were negatively affected. As a result of their excessive sleepiness, 69 percent had made mistakes at work; 43 percent said their ability to care for dependents had been compromised; and 10 percent had had at least one work-related accident. Half of respondents wanted to change their jobs or work hours and did not feel it was possible to do so.

A second study evaluated shift work as a missed diagnosis. Healthcare professionals initiated a discussion of shift work only 13% of the time compared to 82% where the shift worker initiated the conversion. Data suggests that  a diagnosis of shift work disorder is not detected by physicians 67% of the time and that half is undiagnosed because it is often masked by other conditions, including depression.

Anderson C, Sylvester L, Paik, S. Work Disorder: An Internet Survey Of Shift Workers, Patients With Shift Work Disorder, And Healthcare Professionals. New research presented at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting, Honolulu, Hawaii, May 14-18, 2011. Abstract NR10‐39.