Shift work and incidence of psychiatric disorders: The Danish Nurse Cohort study

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Background: Research on health effects of shift work has especially focused on somatic diseases, such as breast cancer and cardiometabolic disease, while less attention has been given to the association between shift work and mental health.

Methods: We used information on 19 964 female nurses (>= 44 years) from the Danish Nurse Cohort, who reported current work schedule (day, evening, night, or rotating) at recruitment (1993/1999). In 5102 nurses who participated in both cohort waves, we defined persistent night shift work as working night shift in 1993 and 1999. We used Cox regression models to calculate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs), adjusting for relevant confounders. Through linkage of cohort participants to national registers, we defined incidence of mood and neurotic disorders as first hospital contact or redeemed prescription until November 2018.

Results: We found association between night shift work with mood disorders (HR = 1.31; 95%CI = 1.17 & ndash;1.47) and neurotic disorders (1.29; 1.17 & ndash;1.42), compared to day work. Associations were enhanced in nurses with persistent night shift work (1.85; 1.43 & ndash;2.39 and 1.62; 1.26 & ndash;2.09 for mood and neurotic disorders, respectively) and in nurses with specialist confirmed mood (1.69; 1.24 & ndash;2.29) and neurotic (1.72; 1.22 & ndash;2.44) disorders. Nurses with preexisting psychiatric disorders and full-time work seemed most susceptible.

Conclusions: Night shift work is associated with increased risk of major psychiatric disorders. The novel suggestive findings of vulnerable groups, including nurses with a history of psychiatric disorders and full-time workers, are based on a limited number of cases, and further research is needed to confirm the results.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Pages (from-to)132-138
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Research areas

  • Shift work, Nurses, Psychiatry, Mood disorders, Neurotic disorders, MENTAL-HEALTH, ASSOCIATION, DISEASE, RISK

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