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Shift Work Linked to Increased Risk for COVID-19 Illness

Associations seen for shift work, irregular or permanent shift work, day-shift work, irregular or permanent night-shift work

TUESDAY, April 27, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Shift work is associated with an increased risk for significant COVID-19 illness, according to a study published online April 26 in Thorax.

Robert Maidstone, Ph.D., from John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, England, and colleagues examined the impact of shift work on significant COVID-19 illness using linked data for 501,000 U.K. Biobank participants and secondary care severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 polymerase chain reaction results from Public Health England.

The researchers found that compared with participants who did not perform shift work, irregular shift work, permanent shift work, day-shift work, irregular night-shift work, and permanent night-shift work were all associated with positive COVID-19 tests (odds ratios, 2.42, 2.5, 2.01, 3.04, and 2.49, respectively). After adding sleep duration, chronotype, premorbid disease, body mass index, alcohol, and smoking to the model, this relationship persisted. The effects of the workplace were controlled for in three ways; in all cases, shift work correlated significantly with COVID-19. Among 120,307 U.K. Biobank participants who had their occupational history reprofiled in 2017, the correlation with COVID-19 persisted (odds ratio, 4.48).

“We would advocate that shift work is treated as a modifiable risk factor for COVID-19,” the authors write. “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.”

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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