Shift work and heart attacks

By • Published: October 24th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

“Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’.” Do these lyrics sound familiar? Well some of you might remember them as the catchy chorus from a 1980s song by Dolly Parton.

It is true, some people use the hours between 9 and 5 to earn a nice living. But now researchers say there are additional benefits for working what some refer to as banker’s hours.

A new study says people who work the traditional 9 to 5 have a lower risk for a heart attack than shift workers who work irregular hours.

Researchers analyzed 34 previous studies that involved more than 2 million people. They found workers who work evening, overnight, split or rotating shifts were 23 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 5 percent more likely to suffer from a stroke.

But for the people who work the graveyard shift, the news gets even worse. Workers earning their dough when most people are sleeping have a 41 percent higher chance of suffering from a coronary event.

Even when factoring in that shift workers usually have higher levels of unhealthy behaviors like poor eating habits, lack of exercise or not getting enough sleep, researchers say the elevated risk still remains.

These new findings add to the list of potential health problems suffered by nighttime workers. Previous studies have shown that besides being sleepy, people working overnight have a greater chance of suffering from diabetes and obesity.

But there is a little good news for people who work irregular hours. Researchers say even though shift workers are at greater risk for more health problems, they were not more likely to die from any cause compared to the 9-to-5 workforce.

Unfortunately, working 9 to 5 isn’t an option for the millions of American shift workers trying to make a living. So just remember, getting some extra sleep and avoiding junk foods may help you feel like you are working 9 to 5, too.