Research/studies Shift work

Study links long-term shift work to impaired brain power

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Toulouse, France – Performing shift work for many years can result in diminished brain power, and a worker would need at least five years to recover, concludes a study from the University of Toulouse.

Researchers examined the memory, processing speed and cognitive abilities of more than 3,000 men and women who were working or retired at five-year intervals. Nearly half had performed shift work for at least 50 days during the year. They found that shift workers had lower scores for memory, processing speed and brain power, and those who worked rotating shifts – alternating between morning, afternoon and night – for 10 years or more had lower cognitive and memory scores, equal to six-and-a-half years of age-related cognitive decline.

Once shift work ends, a worker could regain cognitive ability, except for processing speed, after at least five years, according to the study.

The researchers said monitoring the health of those who have performed long-term shift work would be valuable.

The study was published online Nov. 3 in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.