Shift work is a known risk factor for ill health
Understanding the factors that increase people’s susceptibility to COVID-19 can help protect the most vulnerable groups from infection. Scientists have previously established which biological and medical factors increase the risk of a severe course of this disease. It is also known that the risk of contracting coronavirus is associated with the profession: for example, health workers get sick more often.
The role of work schedules in the risk of contracting coronavirus is poorly understood. The authors of the new study write that some evidence indicates that shift work may be associated with increased risks. For example, outbreaks have been reported among factory workers who work night shifts.
Shift work is becoming more common. Scientists and doctors are worried that this type of work is associated with an increased risk of developing respiratory diseases, cancer, diabetes mellitus and infectious diseases (excluding COVID-19).
Why shift work is bad for health is not exactly known. Scientists believe that this is due to disturbed sleep and circadian rhythms, as well as poor nutrition. Since these factors can lead to a decrease in immunity, scientists have already suggested that shift work may increase people’s susceptibility to COVID-19.
Shift workers disproportionately among those hospitalized with COVID-19
In the new study, the researchers used data from the British Biobank on more than 280 people aged 40-69. They collated information about their health and working habits with data on the incidence of COVID-19. The criterion for this disease in this scientific work was the infection confirmed by PCR test in hospitalized patients.
The study found that when compared to those who regularly work during normal daytime hours:
- periodic shift work is associated with an average increase in the risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2;
- constant shift work – with an increase in this risk by 2.5 times;
- regular night shift work – 3 times;
- irregular night shift work – 3.5 times.
In their calculations, scientists took into account additional risk factors, including gender, age, weight, sleep duration, alcohol consumption, smoking. They showed that this data is also true for people of the same or similar occupations: the risk of getting COVID-19 is related to the type of work schedule.