This type of work schedule doubles your risk for COVID-19

Do you have an atypical work schedule? Well, be sure to take good care of yourself as you may be at higher risk for developing COVID-19.

According to the authors of the new study, populations that work irregular work hours are significantly more likely to become infected by coronavirus compared to those who adhere to more traditional work schedules.

More discreetly, those who work shifts outside of 9 am and 5 pm, (including both long-term night shifts and work schedules in which employees change or rotate their shifts) were deemed to be twice as likely to experience clinically recognizable COVID-19. The data subsumed 280,000 participants between the ages of 40 and 69.

“We studied UK Biobank participants after excluding the following groups: (A) healthcare worker testing on the basis that this was not clear whether the healthcare worker was being admitted to hospital with COVID-19 or undergoing routine screening; (B) participants who had COVID-19 testing outside of secondary care; and (C) people who had not provided a detailed job history to determine shift work status,” the authors wrote in the new paper.

“We now show that shift workers have higher odds of testing positive for COVID-19 in hospitals compared with non-shift workers. Both permanent and irregular shift workers (encompassing both day and night shift workers) had increased odds, compared with workers who never worked shifts.”

Shift work denotes any work schedule that falls outside the hours of 7 am and 6 pm. Although hospital workers were associated with the most profound covid risk increases in the new report, shift work, in general, yielded strong associations with infection rates. This was due to a variety of reasons.

Sleep deprivation shares a robust relationship with a compromised immune system independent of covid. Similarly, sleeping at different times disrupts a person’s circadian rhythm which in turn reduces their ability to fight infections. This disruption is medically referred to as “circadian misalignment.”

It’s important to note that the research literature has highlighted adverse outcomes linked to shift work for some time. Not all of these outcomes occur as a direct result of poor sleeping habits, but the vast majority either link back to circadian misalignment or deprivation. Cancer, heart disease, obesity, and insomnia are some of the most o commonly cited health effects.

“Shift work sleep disorder is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder characterized by sleep problems that stem from working long or irregular hours,” the Sleep Foundation reports.

“If untreated, shift work disorder can lead to major health concerns. The condition may also negatively impact the worker’s professional performance and put them at a higher risk of committing an error or being involved in a workplace accident. Identifying shift work disorder symptoms and seeking treatment is vital to the patient’s health, wellbeing, and safety.”

Given COVID-19 might end up being an endemic illness, (an illness that is regularly found among particular people or in a certain area) further research into how to reduce infection rates caused by shift work might be warranted.

“We show that there is an increased likelihood of COVID-19 in shift workers that is comparable with known COVID-19 risk factors. We would advocate that shift work is treated as a modifiable risk factor for COVID-19,” the authors of the new study concluded.

“Sensible precautions in the workplace for shift workers might include increased after-hours training and supervision on safety protocols, increased cleaning schedules, reduced numbers of workers on any one shift, providing personal protective equipment to shift workers and targeting them for early COVID-19 vaccination programs.”

This study was published in the journal Thorax.