Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the study revealed that older people and those who work non-standard hours are less likely to feel integrated into society.
In the UK, two-thirds of employees work at unusual times but many of these people find their leisure time constrained by the limited availability of services during the hours they are not working, as well as other people with whom to spend their free time, the research discovered.
The study found that compared with people who work a standard week (Monday to Friday, between 8am and 7pm), such workers spend less time on face-to-face social and relational activities, particularly if they work in the evening or at the weekend.
On average, evening workers spend six hours 43 minutes on social activities per week and Sunday workers just over five hours, compared with over eight hours for those who work normal hours.
“By getting people to keep a diary and analysing the way they spend their time over a 24 hour period, we have been able to understand how they ‘participate’ and what might be done to create greater social inclusion,” explained lead researcher Dr Matt Barnes.
The study also revealed that older people are more likely to feel socially excluded, particularly if they live alone.
Over one million older people experience a poor level of social inclusion and relations, it said.
“Feeling part of society usually involves participating in certain activities such as sports, the arts, volunteering or social networking,” said Dr Barnes.
“Our research shows that older people and those who work unusual hours face particular barriers to participating in such activities.”