In a recent study, the BMJ Group analyzed the health impacts of shift work (non-daytime schedules) on cardio-vascular “events.” Shift work was found to increase the risk of a heart attack by 23% and to account for 7% of all heart attacks. The conclusions of the study bear repeating.
What’s already known:
- Shift work is associated with an increased risk of hypertension, metabolic syndrome, dyslipidaemia, and diabetes mellitus.
- Disruption of circadian rhythm might predispose shift workers to vascular events; however, there’s no organized systematic synthesis of all types of vascular events.
What this study adds:
- Shift work is associated with myocardial infarction, coronary events, and ischaemic stroke; although the relative risks are modest, risks attributable to population are high.
- These findings seem to be robust and insensitive to publication bias, quality of study, and socioeconomic status.
- Conversely, shift work is not associated with increased rates of mortality (whether from vascular causes or overall).
The study carries these lessons for employers:
- Make sure that employees are aware of the health dangers posed by shift work and take steps to mitigate their effects. Preventive activities – such as proper diet and exercise, curbs on smoking, and minimizing other stressors – while important for all your employees, take on even greater significance for shift workers.
- Review your obligations under workers comp, ADA, FMLA and regulations if an employee suffers any of these ill effects.
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