How many people work this kind of non-standard shift work? One study suggests that up to 20% of the labor force falls into this category. That includes about three million people who work the “graveyard shift,” starting work at 11:00 p.m., or later. The range of people doing non-standard shift work includes nurses, bakers, policemen, technical support workers, salespeople, computer programmers, financial advisors, factory workers, miners and many other occupations.
There are often many advantages associated with this kind of work. For example, many people who are enrolled in college work shifts, as do many parents who are therefore able to spend time during the day watching their young children. And in some cases, the pay for shift work is better than the pay for the same job during “regular” hours.
But there are downsides to shift work. Working “atypical” hours can affect the natural circadian rhythms, which can in turn affect how long and how deeply a person sleeps. Many shift workers are more tired than others, which can translate into accidents on the job, at home or on the road.
And shift work is associated with other health conditions. For example, shift workers tend to be at greater risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, ulcers, depression, cognitive impairment, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
As is often the case, this association with general health deficits is matched by a potential for penis health issues for men who conduct shift work. Among the issues more likely to occur in male shift workers are:
Hypogonadism. Most men who know anything about hypogonadism associate it with testes and/or a penis that are much smaller than usual. While that can be true of hypogonadism that occurs during fetal development, in adult males, hypogonadism tends to refer to a decreased production of testosterone and/or sperm. It is often characterized by one or more of the following:
– Erectile dysfunction and/or infertility
– Decrease in muscle mass and/or body hair
– Osteoporosis (loss of bone mass)
– Development of soft breast tissue
– Diminished sex drive
– Difficulty focusing and concentrating
– Hot flashes
Hormone therapy may be recommended as treatment.
Lower urinary tract symptoms. The bladder, urethra, sphincter and/or prostate may not function properly. This may lead to a variety of issues, including pain while urinating, an increased frequency of urination (especially when sleeping), increased urge to urinate and incontinence.
Prostate cancer. After skin cancer, this is the most common cancer among men – and male shift workers are at a somewhat higher chance of contracting it. Treatment success is good if initiated early.