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Original research
Shift work and sickness absence at a Norwegian hospital: a longitudinal multilevel study
  1. Vilde Hoff Bernstrøm1,
  2. Inge Houkes2
  1. 1 Work Research Institute, Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo, Norway
  2. 2 Department of Social Medicine, Care and Public Health Research Institute (CAPHRI), Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Vilde Hoff Bernstrøm, Work Research Institute, Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo, Norway; vilde.bernstrom{at}


Objective Shift work is known to be related to several negative health consequences and sickness absence. Research results regarding the relationship between types of shift schedules and sickness absence and whether and how individual factors moderate this relationship, are mixed though. The present paper aims to provide more insight in these relationships.

Methods We used registry data from a large Norwegian hospital gathered for the years 2012–2016, for >14 000 employees. With random effects at the individual and unit levels, we analysed the relationship between shift schedule worked and sickness absence in the same year.

Results The results showed increased risk of short-term sickness absence for two-shift and three-shift rotations, as well as fixed night shifts compared with fixed-day shifts. We also found an increased number of absence periods for two-shift rotations without nights and three-shift rotations. Results for long-term sickness absence were mixed, with increased odds for two-shift rotations without nights, but reduced odds for three-shift rotations. We found partial support for a moderating influence of age, gender and parental status.

Conclusions There is a clear relationship between working shifts and increased risk of short-term sickness absence. The relationship persists across gender, age group and parental status. The relationship between shift work and long-term sickness absence appears to be schedule and population specific. These findings may have implications for HR policies and the organisation of shift work in healthcare organisations.

  • shift work schedule
  • absenteeism
  • occupational health
  • longitudinal studies
  • effect modifier
  • epidemiologic

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  • Contributors VHB initiated the study. VHB and IH planned the study. VHB prepared the data and executed the statistical analyses. VHB and IH interpreted the results, drafted and revised the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by the Research Council of Norway (grant number 237784).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. The datasets analysed during the current study are not publicly available. The data are the property of the participating hospital. On reasonable request, the corresponding author can facilitate contact with the participating hospital.