Black people disproportionately affected by hectic work schedules

A new study that analyzed work schedules, health patterns and sleep habits, found that people with "stable" employment patterns experienced better sleep and health.

Hectic work schedules have proven to be harmful to people’s long-term mental and physical health.

Wen-Jui Han, a professor at NYU Silver School of Social Work, examined “the critical role employment plays in our health by examining how employment patterns throughout our working lives, based on work schedules, may shape our health at age 50.” Findings were published in the scientific journal PLOS One, People magazine reported.

The study analyzed data from a long-running survey of Americans, ages 22-49 years old, regarding their work schedules, health patterns and sleep habits, concluding that people with “stable” employment patterns had better sleep and health.

Working night shifts and irregular work hours can have an adverse affect on one’s physical and mental health, a study has found. (Adobe Stock)

“Our work now is making us sick and poor,” Han told NPR. “Work is supposed to allow us to accumulate resources. But, for a lot of people, their work doesn’t allow them to do so. They actually become more and more miserable over time.”

The study examined the impact of challenging work conditions on different groups’ health, considering factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, education, immigration status and geographic location. 

Black people with lower levels of education disproportionately reported working more night shifts, having irregular schedules, and getting less sleep than other groups, such as white people or those with higher levels of education.

Recommended Stories

Han’s research indicates that the impact of work schedules on an individual’s positive and negative well-being can accumulate over time.

Han also reported poor health and sleep outcomes in people who worked regular day shifts earlier in life and later transitioned to “volatile” schedules. The professor warned about the well-known long-term health impacts, such as depression, anxiety, obesity and a higher risk of having a stroke. 

The Cleveland Clinic notes that a lack of sleep — which can be associated with working longer hours — can cause many short- and long-term health problems, including high blood pressure and cholesterol, and increase the risk for diseases like Type 2 diabetes.

“Work that is supposed to bring resources to help us sustain a decent life has now become a vulnerability to a healthy life due to the increasing precarity in our work arrangements in this increasingly unequal society,” Han told Science Daily. “People with vulnerable social positions (e.g., females, Blacks, low-education) disproportionately shoulder these health consequences.”

Never miss a beat: Get our daily stories straight to your inbox with theGrio’s newsletter.