Media coverage of research on impact of shiftwork on cognitive function

A study by Philip Tucker, Simon Folkard and colleagues at Toulouse University, showing the impact of shiftwork on cognitive function, has received wide coverage in the media this week.

The researchers followed a large sample of shift workers and non-shift workers over 10 years, testing their cognitive performance every 5 years. They found that the shift workers’ cognitive performance was lower than that of the day workers.  The difference was greatest for those who had worked shifts for more than 10 years. The shift workers’ cognitive function recovered after they quit shift work, but this recovery took at least 5 years from time that they stopped working shifts. The results demonstrate that the long term effects of shift work on the body clock are not only harmful to workers’ physical health, but also affect their mental abilities. Such cognitive impairments may have consequences for the safety of shift workers and the society that they serve, as well as for shift workers’ quality of life. The research is published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, and was featured on BBC News, BBC Wales and CBC News, amongst other outlets.