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Is there an association between shift work and having a metabolic syndrome? Results from a population based study of 27 485 people


OBJECTIVES To explore how metabolic risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) differ between shift workers and day workers in a defined population. Shift work has been associated with an increased risk of CVD. Risk factors and causal pathways for this association are only partly known.

METHODS A working population of 27 485 people from the Västerbotten intervention program (VIP) has been analysed. Cross sectional data, including blood sampling and questionnaires were collected in a health survey.

RESULTS Obesity was more prevalent among shift workers in all age strata of women, but only in two out of four age groups in men. Increased triglycerides (>1.7 mmol/l) were more common among two age groups of shift working women but not among men. Low concentrations of high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (men<0.9 and women<1.0 mmol/l) were present in the youngest age group of shift workers in both men and women. Impaired glucose tolerance was more often found among 60 year old women shift workers. Obesity and high triglycerides persisted as risk factors in shift working men and women after adjusting for age and socioeconomic factors, with an OR of 1.4 for obesity and 1.1 for high triglyceride concentrations. The relative risks for women working shifts versus days with one, two, and three metabolic variables were 1.06, 1.20, and 1.71, respectively. The corresponding relative risks for men were 0.99, 1.30, and 1.63, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS In this study, obesity, high triglycerides, and low concentrations of HDL cholesterol seem to cluster together more often in shift workers than in day workers, which might indicate an association between shift work and the metabolic syndrome.

  • shift work
  • metabolic variables
  • coronary heart disease

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