I ran across a study by the BMJ Group that analyzed the health impacts of shift work (non-daytime schedules) on cardio-vascular "events." Shift work was found to increase the risk of a heart attack by 23% and to account 7% of all heart attacks. The conclusions of the study bear repeating
    What's already known

  • Shift work is associated with an increased risk of hypertension, metabolic syndrome, dyslipidaemia, and diabetes mellitus.
  • Disruption of circadian rhythm might predispose shift workers to vascular events; however, there's no organized systematic synthesis of all types of vascular events.

  • What this study adds

  • Shift work is associated with myocardial infarction, coronary events, and ischaemic stroke; although the relative risks are modest, risks attributable to population are high.
  • These findings seem to be robust and insensitive to publication bias, quality of study, and socioeconomic status.
  • Conversely, shift work is not associated with increased rates of mortality (whether from vascular causes or overall).

The study carries these lessons for employers:

  1. Make sure that employees are aware of the health dangers posed by shift work and take steps to efforts to mitigate their effects. Preventive activities - such as proper diet and exercise, curbs on smoking, and minimizing other stressors - while important for all your employees, take on even greater significance for shift workers.
  2. Review your obligations under workers comp, ADA, FMLA and regulations if an employee suffers any of these ill effects.
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