Young Adult’s Work Schedules Could Harm Their Health In The Future, According To New Study...

According to a newly released study, an erratic work schedule can cause dire long-term health consequences such as lower physical and mental functions and depressive symptoms by the age of 50.

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According to a new report published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, an erratic work schedule can cause long-term health consequences, specifically for young adults currently working irregular hours. 

The report itself defined a standard work schedule as starting at 6 a.m. or later and ending at 6 p.m. A standard evening work schedule would start at 2 p.m. or later until midnight, and average nighttime hours would start at 9 p.m. or later and end at 8 a.m.

“About three-quarters of the work patterns we observed did not strictly conform to working stably during daytime hours throughout our working years,” said Dr. Wen-Jui Han, the sole author of the study and professor at the Silver School of Social Work at New York University.

“This has repercussions,” continued Han, who also specializes in social welfare policy with children and families.

“People with work patterns involving any degree of volatility and variability were more likely to have fewer hours of sleep per day, lower sleep quality, lower physical and mental functions, and a higher likelihood of reporting poor health and depressive symptoms at age 50 than those with stable standard work schedules.”

Han also explained how he looked at social positions such as race or ethnicity, gender, and education when analyzing the data. He used data from more than 7,300 individuals, about 50% of them were White, 33% were Black, and 19% were Hispanic. 

The population was a part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, “a nationally representative sample of Americans who were between the ages of 14 and 22 and surveyed at different points over time,” according to Kristen Rogers of CNN.

Han found that individuals who worked early standard hours, but then transitioned to a more erratic schedule between the ages of 22 and 49 were most associated with the poorest health results. This specific pattern aligned with individuals with the poorest health and depressive symptoms by the age of 50. 

The study itself found race and gender played a part in the results as well. The data showed that Black Americans had a higher likelihood of working an erratic schedule. “[That finding speaks] to the intersectionality between employment patterns and social position, underscoring the substantial health disparities between those with resources and those without. Those without disproportionately shoulder the adverse consequences of volatile employment patterns,” the study stated.

Dr. Xiaoxi Yao, a professor of health services research at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota said the study results weren’t surprising, but they were alarming. “Because of the advancement in technology and the gig economy, especially since the pandemic, people are increasingly working nonstandard schedules in comparison with several decades ago,” Yao said to CNN.

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“People in higher socio-economic status might enjoy the flexibility of working from anywhere at any time, whereas people in the so-called vulnerable social positions might not have a choice. We are often worried about these workers’ wages and benefits but this study calls out that the non-standard work schedules and hours might inherently put workers at risk.”

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“A person can have some risk factors that make it difficult to both find a stable job and more likely to develop a disease. It is difficult to use the current data to draw a firm conclusion that the work schedules/hours caused the adverse health outcomes,” Yao said.

“[The research results are] in line with what everyone in public health knows, which is that one’s health outcomes are determined by a myriad of factors, including what work they have, since type of work determines their daily routines and, crucially, their income and therefore what resources they can access,” said CNN wellness contributor Dr. Leana Wen.

“Nonstandard schedules can make it difficult to maintain lifestyle habits important for good health — such as sleeping well, eating at regular hours and spending time with loved ones,” said Dr. Azizi Seixas, associate director of the Center for Translational Sleep and Circadian Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The study said that changing jobs and shifting your schedule is the best solution, however not everyone has that ability. Utilizing other strategies to maintain a healthy lifestyle, however, can help. Having a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, taking time to relax and spend time with family and friends, can help offset the negative impacts of stress from work. 

“By incorporating these strategies into their daily lives, individuals can proactively mitigate the negative effects of nonstandard work schedules on their health and promote overall well-being despite the constraints imposed by their employment patterns,”  said Dr. Azizi Seixas, associate director of the Center for Translational Sleep and Circadian Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.