Background: Shift workers are at increased risk of chronic conditions including obesity, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. Dietary factors may contribute to the onset and/or development of disease risk. Shift work alters meal timing, with food often consumed in conflict with normal circadian rhythms. The aim of this study was to understand factors affecting the dietary habits of rotating shift workers during working hours.
Methods: A cross-sectional study comprising qualitative and quantitative data collection. Focus groups (n=6) were undertaken with 41 Melbourne Metropolitan firefighters who continually work a rotating roster. A sub-group of participants (n=19) completed repeated 24-hour dietary recalls (two during day shift schedule and two during night shift schedule). Data were entered into FoodWorks and analysed using Wilcoxon signed-rank test; p< 0.05 was considered significant.
Results: The mean age (SD) and years of service was 49 years (10.2) and 24.7 (10.8) years, respectively. Thematic analysis revealed four key factors impacting dietary choices: shift schedule; co-worker attitudes and food choices; availability of time and the accessibility of food; concern and awareness of health. Total 24 hour energy intake during day shift schedule (median (IQR) 11419 (3466) kJ) was similar to during night shift schedule (10350 (4420) kJ, P=0.295). A greater proportion of snacks comprised discretionary food items (46% vs 33%) during night shift schedule compared with day shift schedule.
Conclusion: There are specific shift-related factors that influence food choices, which need to be considered when developing dietary recommendations for shift workers.
Funding source: N/A