A study has found that shift workers are highly likely to skip meals, get insufficient sleep and be overweight.

The research, carried out by the safefood organisation, found that workers in the health service were among those prone to living unhealthy lifestyles because of their erratic work patterns and bad eating habits.

More than 1,300 shift workers were asked about their eating, sleeping and smoking habits for the survey.

It found that 67% of them reported skipping meals on work days, while 78% said they got insufficient sleep.

One in three shift workers smoke, a rate higher than those in the general population.

The survey found that tiredness, inadequate canteen opening times, and the poor availability of food were common barriers raised by shift workers to leading a healthy lifestyle.

Safefood said workers in the health service were among the most likely to skip meals and get insufficient sleep, while 51% were overweight.

In the manufacturing sector, 30% of people smoked and 64% were overweight.

Safefood says employers should pay more attention to providing adequate breaks and healthy dining options for shift workers.

The Director of Human Health and Nutrition at safefood has said the findings put people at risk of diabetes and obesity.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan said that employers and employees have a responsibility to make the effort to promote and encourage healthy lifestyles.

"We're looking at a serious situation here," she said. "One in six of us works shifts works so that really puts people at a higher risk of diabetes and obesity. It is a challenge to be worked at."

The report also noted some discrepancies between men and women, and also between younger and older employees.

Men reported poorer dietary habits than women and were more likely to be overweight.

Younger shift workers were found to have poorer diets, and higher alcohol consumption rates, than their older workers. However, older workers reported poorer sleep patterns and lower levels of physical activity.