Is shift work associated with a higher risk of overweight or obesity? A systematic review of observational studies with meta-analysis

Int J Epidemiol. 2018 Dec 1;47(6):1956-1971. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyy079.


Background: An increasing number of original studies suggest that exposure to shift work could be associated with the risk of overweight and obesity, but the results remain conflicted and inconclusive. This study aimed to quantitatively synthesize available epidemiological evidence on the association between shift work and the risk of overweight and obesity by a meta-analysis.

Methods: The authors searched PubMed, Embase and the reference lists of all included studies up to April 2017, with a verification search in December 2017. Inclusion criteria were original studies that reported odds ratios, relative risks or hazard ratios (ORs, RRs or HRs, respectively) of at least one outcome of overweight or obesity. Summary risk estimates were calculated by random-effect models.

Results: Twenty-six studies (7 cohort studies, 18 cross-sectional studies and 1 case-control study) involving 311 334 participants were identified. Among these studies, the cut-off points of overweight and obesity varied greatly, so the heterogeneity was substantial; however, the results were stable. Shift work was found to be positively associated with the risk of overweight [RR: 1.25; 95% confidence interval (95% CI): 1.08-1.44] and obesity (RR: 1.17; 95% CI: 1.12-1.22).

Conclusions: Individuals involved in shift work are more likely to become overweight or obese. Appropriate preventive interventions in the organization of shift schedules according to ergonomic criteria would allow shift workers to avoid potential health impairment.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Humans
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Shift Work Schedule / adverse effects*
  • Weight Gain / physiology