Shift Work and COVID-19

Angie Szumlinski Health, Studies

Many studies have been done on people who work shifts and the adverse health effects of shift work can cause including respiratory disease, diabetes, cancer, and non-COVID-19 infectious diseases. Although the mechanisms underlying these associations remain uncertain, one hypothesis is that irregular working hours could lead to circadian misalignment. In a study published in the journal Thorax, researchers set out to investigate whether disruption of the circadian clock increases susceptibility to COVID-19.

Researchers from the Medical Research Council initiated a recent study and based their findings on data from the UK Biobank. The researchers based their findings on data from the UK Biobank. Of the 502,450 participants enrolled, 6,442 were tested for COVID in the hospital, resulting in 498 positive tests between March and August 2020. In those that had positive tests, 316 did not work shifts, 98 worked irregular shifts, and 84 worked permanent shifts.

Bottom line, people who worked irregular shifts were 2.4 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 in hospitals than those who did not work irregular hours. That increased to 2.5 times higher risk for permanent shift workers. Think about our caregivers, the long hours they have been working, the double shifts, the split shifts, no weekends off and it should make us pause. If your staff has stayed healthy it might be pure luck. Take time to thank your staff, be visible, be appreciative, and above all don’t forget what we have learned in the past 15 months. Stay well, mask up indoors and stay tuned!