Shift work increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease by 1 per cent every year, research suggests.

Chinese researchers have completed the largest ever study focusing on the risk of heart disease in shift workers. 

Researchers analysed 21 studies on a total of 320,002 participants with 19,782 cases of coronary artery disease.

Shift workers were found to be 13 per cent more likely to develop heart disease compared with daytime workers.

Some experts postulate that disruption of the normal sleep-wake cycle, the increased stress involved in shift work and unhealthy lifestyles often associated with shift work, could be contributing to the development of the disease.

The study authors have called for employers of shift workers to do more to protect their employees’ health.

“The longer an employee spends working shifts, the higher their risk of developing ischaemic heart disease,” study author Professor Man Chen said.

“Shift work is a timesaving work system, it can earn more profit but it can also cause harm to the health of employees, so employers should reduce shift work as much as possible.

“Employers should pay attention to staff members who are experiencing symptoms of heart problems as well as those with a family history of heart disease.  Employers could provide health promotion, such as information on how to prevent and deal with ischaemic heart disease.  Companies could also consider providing health checks to detect early signs of heart problems.”

The study is accessible here.