Home Mental Health & Well-Being Night-Shift Work Is Linked to Higher Gambling Rates and Problem Gambling

Night-Shift Work Is Linked to Higher Gambling Rates and Problem Gambling

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A recent study has revealed a significant association between night-shift work and gambling, including problem gambling, among workers in Japan. Conducted by a team of researchers from various prestigious institutions, this nationwide cross-sectional study highlights the potential mental health risks associated with night-shift employment.

The study, published in Addictive Behaviors, utilised data from an extensive online survey conducted between 6th and 27th February 6 2023, involving 21,134 workers. Of these, 9,739 respondents reported having gambled in the past year. The survey aimed to determine whether night-shift work is linked to higher rates of gambling and problem gambling.

The research indicated that night-shift workers had a higher prevalence of gambling compared to their non-night-shift counterparts. Specifically, 55.4% of night-shift workers reported gambling, in contrast to 42.1% of non-night-shift workers. Furthermore, among those who engaged in gambling, 24.2% of night-shift workers were classified as problem gamblers, compared to only 8.8% of non-night-shift workers.

The study employed the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) to measure problem gambling, defining it as a score of 8 or more on the index. This tool has been validated in the Japanese general population, ensuring the reliability of the findings.

Several factors may explain why night-shift workers are more prone to gambling and problem gambling. One prominent factor is the disruption of circadian rhythms due to irregular sleep patterns, which is known to affect mental health. The study’s authors noted that night-shift workers often experience higher levels of anxiety and boredom, potentially leading them to engage in gambling as a coping mechanism.

Moreover, the opportunity structure for night-shift workers may also play a role. These workers typically have long rest periods between shifts, providing them with ample time to engage in gambling activities. Previous studies that found comparable patterns among workers in sectors like transportation, where rest periods can increase gambling engagement, lend support to this hypothesis.

The negative health effects of shift work, particularly night shifts, are well-documented. Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) is a common condition among night-shift workers, characterised by insomnia and excessive sleepiness. This disorder not only affects physical health but is also linked to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

The study’s findings add a new dimension to the understanding of SWSD by highlighting the potential for night-shift work to contribute to addictive behaviours like gambling. This underscores the need for comprehensive occupational health policies that address the broader implications of night-shift work beyond the well-known physical health risks.

Takashi Yoshioka, MD, a researcher from Keio University School of Medicine, provided additional insights into the study’s motivations and implications. He said: “Our research was motivated by a clinical question raised by Dr So, a psychiatrist specialising in addiction, in our research team. During his practice, he noticed a potential prevalence of gambling addiction among night shift workers. As Japan is known for its high rates of problem gambling, prevention and early intervention are crucial issues in health policy. Additionally, shift work, including night shifts, is a significant concern in occupational health due to shift work sleep disorder (SWSD). Considering the importance of bridging the missing link between night shifts and gambling/problem gambling using a robust methodology, we designed and conducted this study.”

Dr Yoshioka further elaborated on the key findings and their implications: “The most significant finding is that night shift workers showed a statistically significant association with both gambling behaviour and problem gambling compared to non-night shift workers. Our secondary analysis, which divided the results based on the presence or absence of shift rotation, also yielded important insights.

“Compared to non-night shift workers, gambling behaviour was significantly associated regardless of shift rotation, while problem gambling was only associated with the presence of shift rotation.

“If switching shifts causes more noticeable changes in circadian rhythm, this could mean that gambling behaviour is linked to things like opportunity structure that are different from SWSD, while SWSD may be involved in problem gambling. Furthermore, the finding that night shifts are associated with addictive behaviours, not just substance use as previously established, may contribute to further elucidation of the pathology of SWSD.”

Dr Yoshioka also shared the research team’s future plans, highlighting the need for further investigation: “As mentioned in the limitations of our study, we aim to clarify the aspects that were not addressed in this research. Specifically, we plan to investigate the longitudinal association between night shifts and problem gambling and identify high-risk industries for gambling and problem gambling (such as the transportation industry, where evidence suggests increased gambling behaviour due to opportunity structure). We believe that uncovering these aspects will provide crucial information for policymakers worldwide.”

Given the significant association between night-shift work and problem gambling, the researchers recommend the implementation of targeted interventions to mitigate these risks. Employers should consider offering mental health support and resources to night-shift workers, including counselling services and stress management programmes.

Policymakers should incorporate gambling prevention programmes into occupational health strategies for shift workers. These programmes should be designed to address the specific needs and challenges faced by night-shift workers, helping to reduce the prevalence of problem gambling in this population.

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