An exploration into the impact that shift work has on the nutritional behaviours of UK police officers

Br J Nutr. 2023 Jul 28;130(2):284-293. doi: 10.1017/S0007114522002999. Epub 2022 Sep 21.


Police officers are at high risk of developing obesity and cardiometabolic health conditions. Their job presents challenges that contribute to this, predominantly shift work, which causes circadian misalignment and can impair metabolism. Food consumption plays a critical role in the synchronisation of the circadian system. Thus, the aim of this study was to understand the barriers and the impact that different shift types have on the dietary habits of police officers in the UK. A concurrent mixed-methods design was used through an online survey that was open to all police officers who were currently working shifts in the UK. One hundred and twenty-seven police officers were included in the analysis. Diet quality was significantly worse on all shift types than on rest days (P < 0·001) and was negatively correlated with BMI on all shifts: early shift (= -0·29, P = 0·001), late shift (rs(105) = -0·25, P = 0·009), nightshift (rs(104) = -0·24, P = 0·013) and rest days (rs(117) = -0·31, P = 0·001). Participants reported that shift work had altered their frequency and timing of food consumption and had increased their reliance on convenience and poor-quality food. Barriers to healthy eating included lacking time (87 %), motivation (65 %) and cost (48 %). Convenience was ranked the highest influence on food choice (49 %), followed by price (41·5 %). Police officers are faced with unavoidable challenges when it comes to eating healthily. Future police-specific dietary interventions are required, providing practical solutions to these barriers so that behaviour change is more likely to be implemented.

Keywords: Behaviour; Diet; Health; Police; Shift work.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Police
  • Shift Work Schedule*
  • United Kingdom
  • Work Schedule Tolerance*