Vending machines leave our shift workers battling the bulge

Poor availability of food at night has left our shift workers reaching for unhealthy food from vending machines, according to the new research.

 Half of health workers admitted being overweight in a new study on the eating habits of shift workers.

Nurses and social workers were among those that claimed shift patterns were a barrier to leading a healthier lifestyle.

Skipping meals, lack of exercise and insufficient sleep were the most common reported behaviours of the shift workers interviewed.

The percentage of people in the manufacturing industry who were overweight was even higher with six out of ten admitting being overweight.

Inadequate canteen opening times, lack of breaks and poor availability of food are all common complaints among the workers polled.

Workers who rely on a vending machine as their source of food have diets higher in sugary drinks and high sugar, high fat food.

Two out of every three people interviewed for the safefood study reporting skipping meals on workdays. Almost eight out of ten said they didn’t get enough sleep.


Research lead Dr Clare Corish, Associate Professor at the School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science, University College Dublin said health & social care workers have poorer access to healthier food options and often an erratic, stressful work schedule but in general have healthier patterns of food consumption and lower rates of smoking.

“By comparison, the manufacturing sector has more defined work patterns and breaks and are more likely to have workplace facilities available but higher rates of smoking. Access to unhealthy vending machines is also seen as a negative influence by workers,” she said.

Male shift workers are more likely to be overweight than their female counterparts.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said: “Shift workers deserve improved eating facilities, whether that’s canteens, work kitchens or healthier vending machines, and reasonable time to take breaks. Both parties have a stake in having a healthier workforce and the benefits that brings.”

The all island research was led by UCD in partnership with Ulster University and Dublin Institute of Technology. One thousand three hundred shift workers were interviewed for the study.


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