Shift work linked to much higher risk of COVID-19 infection

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Scientists from the Universities of Manchester and Oxford found that people who work shifts appear to be much more likely to end up in hospital with COVID-19 than people who have regular work patterns.

The research is published in the journal Thorax and was conducted by Dr. Hannah Durrington et al.

Shift work refers to a work schedule that falls outside regular work hours of 9am and 5pm, including both long-term night shifts and work schedules in which employees change or rotate their shifts.

Globally, shift work is becoming increasingly common with 10% to 40% of workers in most countries doing so.

Previous research has found adverse health effects of shift work, such as respiratory disease, diabetes, cancer, and non-COVID-19 infectious diseases.

It is believed this could be due to sleep deprivation, poor diet and disruption of the body’s natural 24-hour (circadian) cycle.

In the study, the team hypothesized that the immune system is regulated by the circadian clock, it is possible that shift work could be causing “circadian misalignment” and increasing a person’s susceptibility to COVID-19 infection.

They used data on more than 280,000 participants aged 40 to 69 when enrolled in the UK Biobank study (2006-10).

The team compared workers who never worked shifts with participants who worked irregular or permanent shifts.

They found that a person doing irregular shift work was more than twice as likely to test positive for COVID-19 as someone not doing shift work.

Similarly, permanent shift work appeared to make a person 2.5 times more likely to get COVID-19.

The researchers also found that, when compared with workers who engaged in no-shift work, day and night-shift workers (working irregular and permanent night shifts) had a higher likelihood of having a positive COVID-19 test.

Indeed, those doing irregular night shifts were three times more likely to test positive for the virus in hospitals.

They also found shift work was linked to higher odds for having COVID-19 regardless of job sector type.

The researchers suggest that their findings may be due to increased occupancy of workspaces over 24 hours for shift workers, reduced time for cleaning between shifts, and tiredness resulting in less awareness of health and safety measures.

It is also possible that shift work might alter how the immune system responds to infection.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about a new risk factor for severe COVID-19, and a strong link between COVID and stroke.

For more information about COVID, please see recent studies about a new inhaled COVID-19 vaccine, and results showing vegetables and coffee may protect against COVID-19.

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