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Shift Work May Impact Cognitive Performance

Shift Work May Impact Cognitive Performance

A new study suggests shift workers may experience some degree of cognitive impairment.

Although the limitations resolve after ending shift work, it may take up to five years for this to occur, say researchers.

Investigators from Uppsala University in Sweden found that compared to non-shift workers, shift workers needed more time to complete a test that is frequently used by physicians to screen for cognitive impairment.

However, those who had quit shift work more than five years ago completed the test just as quick as the non-shift workers.

The findings appear in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

Researchers reviewed data from around 7000 individuals participating in the Swedish cohort study EpiHealth. They sought to examine whether shift work history would be linked to performance.

To do this, they used a test called the “Trail Making Test,” which consists of two parts. Part A requires participants to connect circles labeled with numbers one to 25 in an ascending order. In part B, participants must alternate between numbers and letters in an ascending order.

The time to complete these tests has been shown to increase with age.

“Our results indicate that shift work is linked to poorer performance on a test that is frequently used to screen for cognitive impairment in humans,” said Dr. Christian Benedict, associate professor at the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University and corresponding author of the study.

“The poorer performance was only observed in current shift workers and those who worked shifts during the past five years.¬†In contrast, no difference was observed between non-shift workers and those who had quit shift work more than five years ago.

The latter could suggest that it may take at least five years for previous shift workers to recover brain functions that are relevant to the performance on this test,” Christian Benedict said.

Source: Uppsala University

Shift Work May Impact Cognitive Performance

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Shift Work May Impact Cognitive Performance. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 18 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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