Research

Shifts ‘significantly associated’ with heart problems

Long-term night shifts are “significantly associated” with heart-related health problems in UK workers, according to a new study. Researchers from China, Hong Kong, the USA and Sweden examined UK data and found working late hours was linked with irregular and fast heart rate, with women potentially at greater risk.

Working night shifts also increased the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), according to the paper published in the European Heart Journal. Researchers have previously looked how night shift work impacts health, including a 2018 study finding an increased risk of CHD from rotating shift patterns. The authors of the latest study say they believe it is the first of its kind to test the association between night shift work and atrial fibrillation (AF) - a heart condition causing an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. 

The study - which used information from 283,657 people in the UK Biobank database - found “both current and lifetime night shift exposure were significantly associated” with a risk of atrial fibrillation regardless of genetics. The findings suggested that among people who worked an average of between three and eight night shifts a month for 10 years or more, the risk increased to 22 per cent compared with daytime workers.

Previous research has also found women who worked night shifts had an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, asthma and faced a greater risk of miscarriage. Night shifts have also been linked to a higher risk of road traffic accidents while travelling home from a shift. 
Read more: Ningjian Wang and others. Long-term night shift work is associated with the risk of atrial fibrillation and coronary heart disease [Abstract and Full text], European Heart Journal, 2021; ehab505. Published 10 August 2021. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehab505. The Independent. Source: Risks 1010. Read more on the Health effects of Shift work

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