More bad news for late-shift workers: Their odd hours may be raising their risk of heart attack and stroke. So says a new, large-scale study in the British Medical Journal that adds these two problems -- which fit into a broader category known as vascular disease -- to the previously known risks of shift work. Previous research had suggested that working the graveyard shift, the swing shift or any irregular shift other than the traditional 9-to-5 is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
British and Canadian researchers analyzed the findings of 34 studies that included more than 2 million people who had work schedules including anything other than regular daytime hours. They found that shift work was linked to a 23 percent increased risk of heart attack and a 5 percent increased risk of stroke. Those working night shifts seemed to be at the highest risk. The study authors said it pays for workers to know that their jobs may put them at increased risk.
A variety of factors -- not just the shift work itself -- could be culprit in increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke for people in those occupations. A lack of sleep, poor eating habits and lower levels of physical activity could plague those who work irregular hours and drive up the risk of vascular disease.
Dr. Robert Bonow, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and past president of the American Heart Association, said it's possible that people working jobs requiring shift work may be economically disadvantaged and have less access to health care -- two factors generally associated with unfavorable health outcomes.For years I've been fascinated by the growing evidence of the negative health affects associated with shift work. It seems to make sense when workers' sleep patterns are constantly disrupted. Interesting stuff. I'll keep an eye out on any new studies/articles and post them when I see them.