Shiftwork and metabolic dysfunction.Chronobiol Int. 2012 Jun; 29(5):549-55.CI
Many of the health problems that are more prevalent among shiftworkers are thought to be linked to their heightened susceptibility to metabolic syndrome, i.e., the association of even moderate degrees of visceral obesity, dyslipidemia, abnormal blood pressure, and serum glucose levels in the same individual. Although previous studies have identified associations between shiftwork and metabolic syndrome, there is relatively little evidence to date of how the risk of developing it varies as a function of exposure to shiftwork. The current study seeks to confirm earlier findings of an association between shiftwork exposure and metabolic dysfunction, and to examine the impact of exposure duration, while adjusting for a number of covariates in the analyses. The analyses were based on data from VISAT, a study involving the measurement of physiological, behavioral, and subjective outcomes from 1757 participants, 989 being current or former shiftworkers. The sample comprised employed and retired wage earners, male and female, who were 32, 42, 52, and 62 yrs old. The first analysis sought to confirm previous findings of an association between exposure to shiftwork and the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. It indicated that participants who were or who had previously been shiftworkers (i.e., working schedules that involved rotating shifts; not being able to go to bed before midnight; having to get up before 05:00 h; or being prevented from sleeping during the night) were more likely to exhibit symptoms of metabolic syndrome, after adjusting for age, sex, socioeconomic status, smoking, alcohol intake, perceived stress, and sleep difficulty (odds ratio [OR] 1.78; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.03-3.08). The results suggest the association between shiftwork and metabolic syndrome cannot be fully accounted for by either higher levels of strain or increased sleep difficulty among shiftworkers, although it remains a possibility that either one or both of these factors may have played a contributing role. The second analysis addressed the issue of duration of exposure to shiftwork. Participants with >10 yrs' experience of working rotating shifts were more likely to exhibit symptoms of metabolic syndrome than participants without exposure to shiftwork, i.e., dayworkers, even after adjusting for age and sex (OR 1.96; 95% CI 1.03-3.75). Thus, the current study confirms the association between shiftwork exposure and metabolic syndrome. It also provides new information regarding the time course of the development of the illness as function of exposure duration, although this was only examined in relation to rotating shiftwork. It is concluded that those responsible for monitoring workers' health should pay particular attention to indices of metabolic dysfunction in workers who have been exposed to shiftwork for >10 yrs.