Shift work link to 'increased risk of heart problems'

shift workers Working night shifts can disrupt the body's clock and lead to health problems

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Shift workers are slightly more at risk of having a heart attack or stroke than day workers, research suggests.

An analysis of studies involving more than 2m workers in the British Medical Journal said shift work can disrupt the body clock and have an adverse effect on lifestyle.

It has previously been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.

Limiting night shifts would help workers cope, experts said.

The team of researchers from Canada and Norway analysed 34 studies.

In total, there were 17,359 coronary events of some kind, including cardiac arrests, 6,598 heart attacks and 1,854 strokes caused by lack of blood to the brain.

These events were more common in shift workers than in other people.

The BMJ study calculated that shift work was linked to a 23% increased risk of heart attack, 24% increased risk of coronary event and 5% increased risk of stroke.

But they also said shift work was not linked to increased mortality rates from heart problems and that the relative risks associated with heart problems were "modest".

Start Quote

Ensuring workers have a minimum of two full nights sleep between day and night shifts can help people to cope with shift work.”

End Quote Jane White Institution of Occupational Safety and Health

The researchers took the socioeconomics status of the workers, their diet and general health into account in their findings.

No rest

Dan Hackam, associate professor at Western University, London, Ontario in Canada, said shift workers were more prone to sleeping and eating badly.

"Night shift workers are up all the time and they don't have a defined rest period. They are in a state of perpetual nervous system activation which is bad for things like obesity and cholesterol," he said.

The authors say that screening programmes could help identify and treat risk factors for shift workers, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

They add that shift workers could also be educated about what symptoms to look out for, which might indicate early heart problems.

Jane White, research and information services manager at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, said there were complex issues surrounding shift work.

"It can result in disturbed appetite and digestion, reliance on sedatives and/or stimulants, as well as social and domestic problems.

"These can affect performance, increase the likelihood of errors and accidents at work, and even have a negative effect on health.

She said the effects of shift work needed to be well managed.

"Avoiding permanent night shifts, limiting shifts to a maximum of 12 hours and ensuring workers have a minimum of two full nights' sleep between day and night shifts are simple, practical solutions that can help people to cope with shift work."

Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said the increased risk to an individual shift worker "was relatively small".

"But many Brits don't work nine to five and so these findings becomes much more significant.

"Whether you work nights, evenings or regular office hours, eating healthily, getting active and quitting smoking can make a big difference to your heart health."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 112.


    'Increased automation needs less people thus increased unemployment.'
    You quite clearly hold the idea of everyone must work a full week or more for them to be thought of a productive.
    Go ahead, people like you are literally sucking the life out of people.
    It's a term know as parasitical enterprise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I worked nights driving trucks for 5 years and looking back realise now that it was extremely bad for me and regularly dangerous. A maximum of 12 hours for a shift ???? try 8 I'd suggest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    I work shifts and the effect on my body is similar to jet lag, as I am constantly getting used to eating and sleping at different times of the day/ night. I try to move myself into a later routine over the weekend before night shifts to prepare for them. Eating regularly and getting a daily block of 6 hours sleep seems key to staying healthy and avoiding depression caused by lack of social life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    '88cyprus etc': neither clever nor amusing, which one takes to be the intent, unless you're off your skull on something & really are not responsible for that little dribble of splash. Best that you never, ever develop the need for a doctor, a copper or a fireman to keep you safe after hours then, or that the country you live in & its infrastrucure is never threatened at night, with views like that

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Seems some people just want money without doing hard work.
    Face up.
    Shift work damages health. Fact, known for years.
    Shift workers get more money......

    So many people wanting pay for easy work. Now wonder you get immigrants doing umpteen hours a day at silly times. They need the money and are ready to do hours to earn it but others...

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    69.The Bloke
    health and wellbeing of its populous and not the private profit they can make.Or am I an evil socialist for CARING ABOUT THE PEOPLE?'

    "No. Just hypocritical.bla bla bla and putting profit before people."
    I said caring and you read immiragtion and layabouts.
    Just make it up as you go along why not, eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    It would of course be interesting to have a survey on the number of British firms complying with both the action and spirit of the EU working hours directive; not completely practical, I know, for some of us SMEs, but again, a society which has disregard for the wellbeing of its workforce has some questions to ask of itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    If Management in every profession did a stint "on the floor" so to speak they would have a better understanding of what it actually feels like to be one of their workforce. Maybe with this insight it could create a better working relationship between the two parties and easier problem solving. A less(US & THEM) culture within companies = better communication, more give & take = mutual "respect".

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Read all the posts before jumping in.

    You'll find that employing more people leads to less unemployment, or are you just concerned with your bottom line?"

    I did read all the posts between you and frenchman - perhaps if you'd read my post properly?

    Increased automation needs less people thus increased unemployment.

    Sorry for trying to be ironic!

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.


    It's an employers market right now...but once the economy picks up, and it will, I hope we all recall how we were treated...//

    It won't matter - the govt will carry on importing immigrants, and the left will cheer them on, and call you racist if you complain.

    When will the left and the BBC admit it got immigration completely wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    So, today's the day for stating the bleedin' obvious then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    'Do without the services at night, or automate everything and create more unemployment - not hard at all!'
    Read all the posts before jumping in.

    You'll find that employing more people leads to less unemployment, or are you just concerned with your bottom line?

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Or how about we ban night shifts in all but essential services (hospitals, emergency services...etc.) and start putting people ahead of profit?

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    SO there is a proven link between shift work and deterioration in health. Might I ask what the government is doing about it? Closing factories, late night supermarkets etc to minimise the risk. After all they have done the same for smoking etc. But not a's about money money and stuff your health. And if you don't live as long, that's Okay. That'll be money saved on pensions and the like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    For those with critically important jobs ie NHS, Police, Fire etc being tired and overworked can be fatal and who's the one going to be blamed for the error - take a wild guess

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    ANY kind of work is likely to give me a heart attack.

    WORK? That's the nastiest four-letter word I know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    We all know that shift work significantly increase your risk of developing health problems (coronary, diabetes, cancer etc.). The fact is that this is not going to change--in some fields of work it is necessary to work shifts (including nights). In these cases, it is vital to think about what you can do to minimise your risk, such as maintaining a balanced diet and exercising.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    As the number of health scares increases each day so does the average life expectancy.

    No one can live forever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    "47. Rosetta
    ' How do you propose that these services can be supplied otherwise?'
    By either automating it or employing more people so that the need to work evening or shifts for the individual is minimal.
    See... not hard is it?"

    Do without the services at night, or automate everything and create more unemployment - not hard at all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    It's not just the private sector that couldn't care less about the welfare of their staff. Take Gove and Wilshaw for example.

    It's an employers market right now...but once the economy picks up, and it will, I hope we all recall how we were treated...


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