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Work schedules and fatigue: a prospective cohort study
  1. N W H Jansen1,
  2. L G P M van Amelsvoort1,
  3. T S Kristensen2,
  4. P A van den Brandt1,
  5. IJ Kant1
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands
  2. 2National Institute of Occupational Health, Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to:
 N W H Jansen, Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, Netherlands;


Aims: (1) To describe the prevalence of fatigue among employees in different work schedules (day work, three-shift, five-shift, and irregular shift work); (2) to investigate whether different work schedules are related to increasing fatigue over time, while taking into account job title and job characteristics; and (3) to study fatigue among shift workers changing to day work.

Methods: Data from nine consecutive four-monthly self administered questionnaires from the Maastricht Cohort Study on Fatigue at work (n = 12 095) were used with 32 months of follow up. Day and shift workers were matched on job title.

Results: The prevalence of fatigue was 18.1% in day workers, 28.6% in three-shift, 23.7% in five-shift, and 19.1% in irregular shift workers. For three-shift and five-shift workers substantial higher fatigue levels were observed compared to day workers at baseline measurement. In the course of fatigue over the 32 months of follow up there were only small and insignificant differences between employees in different work schedules. However, among employees fatigued at baseline, fatigue levels decreased faster over time among five-shift workers compared to fatigued day workers. Shift workers changing to day work reported substantially higher fatigue levels prior to change, compared to those remaining in shift work.

Conclusions: Substantial differences in fatigue existed between day and shift workers. However, as no considerable differences in the course of fatigue were found, these differences have probably developed within a limited time span after starting in a shift work job. Further, evidence was found that fatigue could be an important reason for quitting shift work and moving to day work. Finally, in the relation between work schedules and fatigue, perceived job characteristics might play an important role.

  • shift work
  • fatigue
  • cohort study

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