Night shift a causal link to significant risk factors.

Research has established a causal link among night shift workers and the incidence of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a condition that presents a significant risk condition for high blood pressure and heart disorders among others. The research published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) provides the evidence for what many already ‘feel’ about night shift work.

The aim of the study was to find out if night shifts actually increased risk. Development of MS was found to be significantly higher in night shift healthcare workers than in daytime healthcare workers. And it’s not about getting more sleep, which may also be associated with the syndrome. It appears the evidence is pointing to irregular sleeping patterns rather than sleep deprivation as a contributing factor.

The study was carried out on heatlhcare workers, and this study cannot be generalised to other workplace activity. However there was large participation to the study, involving almost all eligible workers and a very stringent selection criteria which ensured only subjects without any component of the syndrome were included.

The findings will have a strong impact on health policy for shift workers. Policy goals would likely include counselling staff working night shifts, appropriate medical surveillance and, if necessary, changes in work schedule for workers in case of persistence or progression.

Original research: Incidence of metabolic syndrome among night-shift healthcare workers. A Pietroiusti, A Neri, G Somma, et al. Occup Environ Med 2010 67: 5457

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