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Shift work 'raises heart attack risk'

Shift work raises the risk of having a heart attack, a major review of working pattern health effects has shown.

Working unsocial hours was found to increase the chances of a heart attack by more than a fifth, with the risk of a stroke rising by 5%.

Shift patterns, especially night shifts, have long been linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and diabetes.

But experts have disagreed about their association with heart and artery disease.

The new research, the largest analysis of shift work and heart risk to date, pulled together evidence from 34 studies involving more than two million people.

Coronary events - including heart attacks and angina chest pains - and strokes were more common among shift workers.

The chances of “any coronary event” were increased by 24%, and of heart attacks by 23%, while stroke risk was raised slightly by 5%.

Despite the relatively small effect, the impact on a large population could be significant, the authors pointed out.

In Canada, where a number of the researchers were based, 7% of heart attacks could be attributed to shift work.

The scientists, led by Dr Daniel Hackam, from Western University in Canada, wrote in the British Medical Journal: “Shift work is associated with vascular events, which may have implications for public policy and occupational medicine.”

Night shifts were associated with the steepest increase in risk for coronary events, 41%. But research found no link between shift work and higher death rates from any cause.

Readers' comments (5)

  • ok! what is going to be done about it if we dont want nights but we are compulsery to do them?

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  • ya what happens when you carnt sleep during the day and have under six hours sleep at night?

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  • Some research is able to prove that pigs fly !

    Separating cause from effect is notoriously difficult.

    I have not read this particular piece of research but wonder if issues such as family history and pre-disposing factors where taken into account or excluded from the analysis.

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  • there should be an age limit for night and certain other shifts or at least make it voluntary. some are forced into early retirement even when they can't afford it because the are no longer able to cope with these.

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  • And the pay cartels want to remove the unsocial hours pay for working nights that may or may not lead to a heart attack. That alone is enough to bring one on!!

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