Dolly Parton famously sang that working nine to five was ‘all taking and no giving’.

But working traditional hours might actually be good for you, according to a new study, which suggests that the shifts you work earlier in life may be linked to your health years later.

Scientists analysed data on more than 7,000 people to see whether employment patterns in younger adulthood were linked with sleep, physical or mental health when they reached the age of 50.

Dolly Parton famously sang that working nine to five was 'all taking and no giving'. But working traditional hours might actually be good for you, according to a new study, which suggests that the shifts you work earlier in life may be linked to your health years later. Dolly is pictured attending the 58th Academy of Country Music Awards in Frisco, Texas, 2023

Dolly Parton famously sang that working nine to five was ‘all taking and no giving’. But working traditional hours might actually be good for you, according to a new study, which suggests that the shifts you work earlier in life may be linked to your health years later. Dolly is pictured attending the 58th Academy of Country Music Awards in Frisco, Texas, 2023

Compared to individuals who mostly worked during traditional daytime hours, those whose careers featured a more volatile work schedule slept less, had lower sleep quality, and were more likely to report depressive symptoms at the age of 50, they discovered.

The most striking results were seen in those who had stable work hours in their 20s and then transitioned to more volatile work hours in their 30s.

The researchers suggest that erratic work schedules are associated with poor sleep, physical fatigue and emotional exhaustion, which may make us vulnerable to an unhealthy life.

The study also suggests that positive and negative impacts of work schedules on health can accumulate over a person’s lifetime and can lead to health inequities in older age.

Professor Wen-Jui Han, from New York University, was the lead author of the study.

She said: ‘About three-quarters of the work patterns we observed did not strictly conform to working stably during daytime hours throughout our working years.

Poor work schedules are associated with poor sleep, physical fatigue, and emotional exhaustion, which may make us vulnerable to an unhealthy life

Poor work schedules are associated with poor sleep, physical fatigue, and emotional exhaustion, which may make us vulnerable to an unhealthy life

‘This has repercussions. People with work patterns involving any degree of volatility and variability were more likely to have fewer hours of sleep per day, lower sleep quality, lower physical and mental functions, and a higher likelihood of reporting poor health and depressive symptoms at age 50 than those with stable work schedules.’

She explained that people with volatile work patterns had a ‘significantly higher’ likelihood of reporting poor health, even when compared to those who were unemployed.

‘Volatile work patterns might be a chronic stressor in our life’ she added.

The study, published in the journal Plos One, also revealed that Black participants with low levels of education and volatile work schedules were most likely to report poor health.

Previous studies have shown that working shifts is also linked to a poorer memory and slower mental processing.

Researchers have suggested that working outside traditional hours interferes with circadian rhythm – our internal body clock – causing people to miss out on good-quality sleep, which can affect the brain.

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