208567 Effects of age and nightwork on the mental health of staff working in a correctional institution

Sunday, November 8, 2009

David Reeves, MA , Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Tim Morse, PhD, CPE , ErgoCenter and Occupational and Environmental Health Center, UConn Health Center, Farmington, CT
Michael Tuller , Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Janet L. Barnes-Farrell, PhD , Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Martin G. Cherniack, MD , Ergonomic Technology Center, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT
It is commonly assumed that older workers are negatively impacted by working the overnight shift (e.g., poorer mental health outcomes), primarily because they adjust less effectively to the altered sleep patterns required by nightwork. However, the notion that nightwork is “unhealthy” for older workers fails to account for possible work demand differences that may also have age-relevant physical and mental health consequences. For example, in correctional work, operations are around-the-clock, but prisons typically limit direct prison staff and inmates contact overnight. Thus, night work in prisons is characterized by reduced psychological demands: i.e. slower pace and less “risky contact” with prisoners than day and afternoon work. Do older workers benefit more than younger workers from this difference? Utilizing a sample of correctional staff (n=285) who completed a survey that measured work characteristics and aspects of health and well-being, we investigated relationships between shift and worker health, mediated by work psychological demands, with age moderating the relationship between psychological demands and health. We found that nightwork was inversely related to work psychological demands and psychological demands, in turn, were related to negative psychological health consequences. Furthermore, age moderated the psychological demands – psychological health relationship, such that the relationship was stronger for older workers (B=.33, p<.001)than it was for younger workers (B=.09, p=.315). These findings suggest that our understanding of how to effectively integrate our aging workforce into 24/7 work operations needs to carefully consider both physical and psychosocial demands of work that are affected by shift.

Learning Objectives:
Identify benefits of nightwork within an aging population Describe the unique characteristics of nightwork within the department of corrections Explain the moderating role of age on the relationship between shift work and mental health

Keywords: Aging, Correctional Institutions

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Ph.D. in Social Science and Health, Associate Professor of Community Medicine, conference organizer for over 20 academic conferences, over 25 peer-reviewed publications.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.