Shift work, clinically significant sleep disorders and mental health in a representative, cross-sectional sample of young working adults

Amy C. Reynolds, Bastien Lechat, Yohannes Adama Melaku, Kelly Sansom, Brandon W.J. Brown, Meagan E. Crowther, Sian Wanstall, Kathleen J. Maddison, Jennifer H. Walsh, Leon Straker, Robert J.T. Adams, Nigel McArdle, Peter R. Eastwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
40 Downloads (Pure)


Mental health conditions confer considerable global disease burden in young adults, who are also the highest demographic to work shifts, and of whom 20% meet criteria for a sleep disorder. We aimed to establish the relationship between the combined effect of shift work and sleep disorders, and mental health. The Raine Study is the only longitudinal, population-based birth cohort in the world with gold-standard, Level 1 measurement of sleep (polysomnography, PSG) collected in early adulthood. Participants (aged 22y) underwent in-laboratory PSG and completed detailed sleep questionnaires. Multivariable adjusted robust linear regression models were conducted to explore associations with anxiety (GAD7) and depression (PHQ9), adjusted for sex, health comorbidities, and work hours/week. Data were from 660 employed young adults (27.3% shift workers). At least one clinically significant sleep disorder was present in 18% of shift workers (day, evening and night shifts) and 21% of non-shift workers (p = 0.51); 80% were undiagnosed. Scores for anxiety and depression were not different between shift and non-shift workers (p = 0.29 and p = 0.82); but were higher in those with a sleep disorder than those without (Md(IQR) anxiety: 7.0(4.0-10.0) vs 4.0(1.0-6.0)), and depression: (9.0(5.0-13.0) vs 4.0(2.0-6.0)). Considering evening and night shift workers only (i.e. excluding day shift workers) revealed an interaction between shift work and sleep disorder status for anxiety (p = 0.021), but not depression (p = 0.96), with anxiety scores being highest in those shift workers with a sleep disorder (Md(IQR) 8.5(4.0-12.2). We have shown that clinical sleep disorders are common in young workers and are largely undiagnosed. Measures of mental health do not appear be different between shift and non-shift workers. These findings indicate that the identification and treatment of clinical sleep disorders should be prioritised for young workers as these sleep disorders, rather than shift work per se, are associated with poorer mental health. These negative mental health effects appear to be greatest in those who work evening and/or night shift and have a sleep disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16255
Number of pages8
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2022


  • young adults
  • young workers
  • mental health conditions
  • shift work sleep disorders
  • Raine Study


Dive into the research topics of 'Shift work, clinically significant sleep disorders and mental health in a representative, cross-sectional sample of young working adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this